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What to Send to a Greek Funeral?

If you're having trouble deciding what to send to a Greek Orthodox funeral, here's what you need to know. 

When someone close to you passes away, it can be challenging to know what the right thing to do is. One of the most important things you can do is show up and pay your respects with gifts or flowers. 

For Greek funerals, it is customary to send wreaths, crosses or sprays. Most commonly, wreaths are ordered for Greek funerals.

Sending flowers to a funeral is a way to show your respect for the person who has passed away, especially if you cannot attend the service. 

In the Greek Orthodox tradition, flowers are an acceptable gift to the Family and may be sent to the funeral home or church before the funeral.

Let Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals help you select the type of funeral service that best fits your needs.

You may also send a smaller arrangement to the home of the deceased's immediate family.

Traditional Greek Funerals

Traditionally, Greek funerals are always held at the church where the deceased frequented, so it is common to send flowers to the church. 

The most common style of funeral flowers delivered are circular wreaths. It's customary to have the wreaths placed at the church entrance, so the Family can view them as they enter. 

In some cases, if you ask for permission from the priest, you may have your flowers left on a stand at the altar or inside the entrance. 

Most priests are flexible and happy to do so; some are pretty strict about slipping hazards and refuse to allow flowers inside if they leak water. 

The Greek Orthodox funeral ceremony is typically held in a church, usually within two to three days of the death (can be up to one week after). 

The ceremony can last thirty to sixty minutes and is not part of a more extensive service. The priest will lead the Trisagion Service, and several books may be used, including The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. 

The casket is open throughout the service, with a procession passing the casket to pay last respects to the deceased. Greek Orthodox will not schedule a funeral on a Sunday or Holy Saturday.

In other Orthodox churches, the officiants at a funeral include a bishop and priest, the deacon, subdeacon, and the altar server, all of whom assist the bishop or priest. 

In most Orthodox churches, only officiating bishops and priests use a text at a funeral ceremony.

Traditional Greek Orthodox greetings to the bereaved Family are: "May you have an abundant life," "Memory eternal," and "May their memory be eternal." Antiochian Orthodox expressions of sympathy include "May God give you the strength to bear your loss," and "May his [or her] memory be eternal."

At the graveside, there is a brief prayer ceremony. The officiating priest or bishop usually puts soil on top of the casket formed in the shape of a cross, and each present person places one flower on the casket or spreads the earth. 

The flowers usually come from those sent to the church for the funeral and then conveyed to the cemetery with the casket.

It is appropriate to visit the bereaved at home after the funeral briefly. A visitor may see religious objects (two-dimensional artistic images of saints), a lighted candle, and burning incense.

The bereaved usually stay at home from work for one week. In some cases, widows may avoid social events for an entire year. 

Mourners usually avoid social gatherings for the first forty days after their death and wear only black clothing during that period. Greek Orthodox widows may wear black for up to two years. 

A memorial service is held on the Sunday closest to the fortieth day after the death. A memorial service is then held annually on the anniversary of the end.

Orthodox Tradition and Flowers

what to send to a greek funeral

Many Greek Orthodox funerals include a tradition where each loved one places a flower on the deceased's casket, but other flowers may also be sent as a symbol of condolence. 

As with most funerals, close family members usually take care of large displays, with extended family and friends sending smaller displays such as flowers in a basket or the shape of a cross.

Flowers are an essential part of almost every meaningful ceremony. They are a symbol of beauty and life as well as a token of gratitude or condolence. 

They have a vital role in the various religious rituals and traditions that colour the community, and they connect us all in our love for nature's gifts.

Understand that there are incredibly diverse areas, and we wouldn't want to have it any other way. 

Personalising a funeral service with religious expressions is a great way to celebrate your loved one's passions and values with Family and friends. 

One beautiful example of faith tradition we often see is the use of flowers in Greek Orthodox funerals.

Flowers are a wonderful gift to a grieving family who follows the Greek Orthodox religion when you wish to express your condolences. White blooms are considered the best option and are chosen the most often. This may be because, in many eastern traditions, white is the colour of mourning. 

In some cases, you may wish to send other flowers that symbolise sympathy or hope, such as apple blossom or lilies. 

If you want to opt for something a little more personal, you could send your loved one's favourite bloom to the Family or the service. 

Usually, the close Family will handle the large displays, such as casket sprays, but extended family and friends often send smaller arrangements.

Aside from being sent as gifts, flowers are also used in a unique Greek Orthodox burial tradition. 

Following a short viewing and a funeral service, a unique burial service will be held called the Trisagion Service. 

Once guests arrive at the gravesite, they will be given a flower to hold during the closing prayers. After the prayers, guests will place the single flower on the casket to be buried with their loved ones.

Even though in the Greek Orthodox religion, it is believed that a person's life is eternal and that even in death, their spirit is still alive, death is still recognised as a problematic part of reality. 

This is why a traditional ceremony is still held, with flowers playing an important – and beautiful – role.

We need to know and understand the meaning behind these sacred rites so that we can bring healing comfort to a family of faith when the time comes.

Choosing Flowers for a Greek Funeral

The colour of your floral tribute should represent the gender of the deceased. So if a lady has passed away, you may send pink, purple, white, red or yellow themed wreaths. 

For gentlemen, you can send blue, white, yellow, orange & red toned wreaths. 

Sending a pink & purple wreath for the passing of a gentleman may be seen as offensive by the Family, so please be sure to select the right colours. 

In Orthodox tradition, white flowers are considered the most appropriate to send to a funeral. 

However, you may also send other flowers that are thought of as symbols of condolence or even hope, such as the apple blossom and lily. 

You might also select something that was a favourite of the person who passed away, as it has personal significance. Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals will always find creative ways to pull costs in line with your budget.

Family's Wishes

In some cases, the Family may request that donations be made to the church or another charitable organisation instead of flowers. 

When that request is made, you should not send flowers to the funeral, even if it is your preference. 

It's essential to respect the Family's wishes rather than fulfil your want to send a floral display. 

If the Family does prefer some donation, it will usually be stated in the obituary or death notice.

Time Frame

A Greek Orthodox funeral traditionally takes place within three days of the death, which doesn't leave a lot of time to order flowers. 

Keep that in mind if you want to send a floral display -- since the flowers should arrive in advance of the first visitation, flowers will need to be ordered almost immediately following news of the death.

What to Send to a Funeral Instead of Flowers

Greeks love flowers at funerals — the more, the better. But giving flowers after a loss, there are a few alternatives worth sharing for those looking for other options. 

Check for an "Instead of Flower"

Sometimes families have already told you what you can do. Check the obituary, funeral home website, or call the funeral home to ask if the Family has offered an "instead of flowers" suggestion.

Tree or Shrub and Memorial Stone

Though this post may not sound like it, I am a plant lover! A tree or shrub the Family can plant in memory of their loved one is a lovely lasting memorial.

Consider whether the Family has a space for a tree or shrub, and pick one you feel would make a lovely memorial.  

There are many beautiful memorial stones you can find here on the With Sympathy Gifts website. Even if a tree may be too much, these garden stones are an excellent gift on their own.

An Unconventional Sympathy Card, Handwritten Note, or Trinket

If you're like me, you like the idea of sending a card or a note, but you don't want to send the same old generic Hallmark card.  

First things first, handwritten notes from scratch are often the most thoughtful.

However, if you aren't much with words, there are companies out there with relatable card options. 

Photos the Family Doesn't Have

Many times as a friend or extended family member, you may have photos that the immediate family does not have. 

If this is the case, could you put together a memorial album or CD of photos the Family doesn't have of their loved one?  

As the weeks and months pass, they will likely be glad to have as many pictures as possible.

A Self-Care Gift

One of the most challenging things for people when dealing with the death of a family member is taking care of themselves.

Giving someone a gift such as a gift certificate for a massage, manicure, or even a private yoga class (some instructors will come to your home) is a nice gesture that may help them take time for themselves.

A self-care basket could also be lovely if you don't think they will be up for going out (consider nice pyjamas, bath items, a candle, a magazine, DVD etc.).

Take the person who has experienced the loss into account when deciding what to do – if they love movies or baseball, tickets to a game or a movie gift card may be more appropriate.

We love these "Here for You" Self-Care grief packages that are ready to go and even come with your choice of a cute sympathy card. We also love that they support WYG if you find them from here!

A Dedication or Donation

Consider a dedication or donation that will reflect the life of that person or your relationship with them.  

The options for this are endless. If this is a friend from high school or college, make a memorial donation to that institution.  

Perhaps they were involved in a church or community organisation. Call to see if donations or dedications can be made. 

If the individual had any interest, from sports to art to animals and anything in between, check for nonprofits. 

You would be surprised how many beautiful nonprofits are connected to all sorts of interests and hobbies.  

Most places will send an acknowledgment to the Family that a donation was made in memory. Just make sure to ask and provide the family member's address.

A Memorial Guestbook

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This is not just any guest book! A customised memorial guest book is where those who attend a memorial service can sign not just their name but also share a person's memory and a special message to the Family.

The service is often a blur for families, so having this book will allow guests to share memories and messages that the Family will look back on later. Click here to check out their memorial book!

Vacation Time

If your co-worker has lost someone and you are looking for an alternative to flowers, perhaps you could donate a day of leave. 

Most companies only offer a couple of days of bereavement time and, if their loss was not immediate Family, they might receive no leave time at all.

Donating a day can mean the difference between someone having to return to work the day after a funeral versus having a day or two to rest before returning to work.

Check with your HR department to see if your company allows this and what the process is.

Something for the Kids

One of the first questions people will ask after a loss is how the affected children are doing. And yet, people rarely think of sending or giving items to the kids. 

Children often feel forgotten with all the attention around the death and the funeral. Any small gift can remind them that you are thinking of them.

Think of the age and interest of the children. 

A stuffed animal (to cuddle with for comfort), a journal (to express feelings), colouring books, activity books, movies, or video games (to occupy themselves when everyone else is busy) are all easy suggestions that will let a child know you haven't forgotten them.

House Cleaning

When a loved one is ill or dies, housework (understandably) gets put on the back burner. Realistically, that often continues for weeks or months as a person grieves.  

Immediately following a loss, friends and Family often stop by the house and, for some, it can be a significant source of stress if the house hasn't been cleaned up.

A gift certificate to a cleaning service can be a relief to the Family. You could offer to clean their home, but keep in mind that many people are self-conscious about their mess and would rather have a stranger do this than a friend. 

So a gift certificate (with an offer to handle scheduling if they need that) is a great option.

Lawn Care Service

Like the above suggestion, many times, the person who has died was the person who mowed the lawn or took care of other outside needs.  

Even if this is not the case, taking care of those things can be an unnecessary stressor for the Family.  

A gift certificate to a lawn care service is a thoughtful and helpful gesture. Even better, throw in an offer to call and get it scheduled for them!

Book of Letters

One gesture we've found incredibly meaningful is organising friends to compile a book of letters. 

This is common when the loss impacts young children. Friends can write letters to the children about their parents, grandparents, or other family member. 

However, children aren't the only ones who can benefit from this gesture. 

For example, a book of letters to a parent about their adult child can be significant. 

Their child has often done many things and the lives they have touched that the parents are unaware of.

This type of book is minimal in cost (all you need is an excellent binder and possibly some page protectors, or a bound book that each person writes directly in). 

What it does require is a lot of effort and coordination in contacting friends and gathering the letters. This is a gesture many families will appreciate for years to come.

Food

Food is a joint gift to send instead of flowers (or in addition to flowers). We suggest it, but with caution! 

This probably requires its post. I will be thinking about how, when, and what you bring if you decide on food.

After experiencing death, families are often overwhelmed with food. In a few weeks after the end, a gift of food will probably be much more appreciated. 

That's when the casseroles they can barely fit in the freezer have stopped rolling in.

A lovely basket of non-perishable foods can be nice, especially snacks they can offer to people who stop by unexpectedly.  

If you want to stick with food, a good standby may be a gift card to a local restaurant or carry out. Another excellent offer would be to grab their grocery list and go shopping for them.

Flowers or Plants

If you decide flowers are the right thing for you to send, you can make this more thoughtful than a standard arrangement.  

First, think about the person who died. Is there a plant, flower, or colour that reminds you of that person for any reason? If so, that may be an excellent choice. If not, decide if you want to send flowers or a plant.  

The plant is something the Family can keep, though not all families will want or appreciate that. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide Orthodox funeral services.

Also, consider whether there is a flower you have found particularly comforting. 

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