While grief is the internal emotional process experienced when someone close dies, mourning refers rather to the social or external expression of those feelings of grief. This cultural way of expressing pain, in our Western countries, has focused on the colors of clothing and the sober attitudes of those who “are in mourning.”
Mourning is a language without words, which focuses on behaviors and social norms as a way of expressing respect for the memory of the deceased and solidarity with their mourners. Although the aesthetic codes of mourning vary in each society or community, in general it has referred to dressing in dark tones, not wearing decorations or attending parties, dances and meetings. Nothing that was associated with celebration or joy.
This custom, which persists today in many corners, dates back to Ancient Rome. Later, in the 2nd century, it was decreed that the official color of mourning would change to white and this tradition was preserved during the medieval period in Europe. In fact, white is currently the color of mourning in most Asian countries and Islam.
Why does black return to represent mourning? In 1497, the Catholic Monarchs of Spain approved a series of laws on the occasion of the death of Prince Juan. Among these rules it was specified that black would be the official color that should be worn for funeral events. Likewise, widows had to remain locked in a room without light and covered in black, for a year after the death of their husbands.
This strict rule was followed until 1729, when Philip V reduced the confinement to six months and decided that the room no longer had to be black. The periods of mourning, and therefore mourning, varied depending on the closeness of the deceased: whether it was the husband, the son, the parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. Even if a loss coincided with a woman’s wedding, she had to marry in black.
The use of the black veil to hide the face of the grieving woman was also common. It should be noted that, in Spain and Latin America, mourning was very focused on the female gender in general terms. Not only did they dress in mourning, but their houses were also darkened, while men could express their loss only with a tie, bracelet or black button in their buttonhole.
And so the years went by, the kings changed and little by little these types of rules and traditions have been relaxing. Already in the 20th century, black was no longer exclusive for mourning and began to be used on other types of occasions, even as a symbol of elegance. In 1987 the Catholic Church recommended using purple for clothing in funeral rituals.
Although dark colors have survived in many societies as a symbol of mourning, pain and solemnity, especially in institutional contexts, every day we are freer to express our sorrow as we see fit, without being governed by rules or representations in colors or shapes.
Current funeral rituals are diverse and not all necessarily adhere to the same aesthetic codes because, as the saying wisely says: the procession goes inside. Today, colorful funerals are held, for example, to say goodbye to children who leave early or a bright color, preferred by the deceased, is chosen and attendees are asked to wear something of that tone.
With dedication and deep respect, Memorial San Ángel accompanies each farewell, with the colors and shapes chosen in tribute to those who are no longer here. San Ángel Memorial: With you until the end…