Why is black the colour of mourning?

Why is black the colour of mourning?
Photo: Shahrear Kabir Heemel

Black, as a colour, has been a component in the expression of a variety of human emotions. It is a colour associated with a diverse range of symbols and is predominantly associated with mourning in different cultures and countries. The shade has left its stamp on everything, whether it is evil, death, loss, mystery, melancholy, or terror. A long-standing custom associated with funerals is the donning of black attires as a sign of respect for the departed. But, where did this connection originate? 

A look back in time 

From the time of the Roman Empire, people have been wearing black to funerals. Many civilisations adopted the hue as a symbol of respect for the lost soul. It was also utilised to openly show sadness and lament the loss. However, it was not until the passing of Prince Albert in 1861 that it became a common funeral dress. Black was the colour the bereaved Queen Victoria wore to signify her status as a sad widow until her own passing 40 years later. 

Victorian women wore black mourning for prolonged lengths of time after their husbands passed away. It was also anticipated that males would don black for three to six months after their wives' demise. During this period, black mourning jewellery, such as lockets with a relative's hair in them, also rose in popularity.

The present era

The way people mourn has evolved. Some individuals adhere to the practice of wearing black to funerals, while others choose to wear other muted shades that were once thought to be inappropriate for the occasion. Nevertheless, black is still seen as a mourning hue all around the world. 

Countries that grieve in this colour

Black is the customary hue of mourning in Italy, as it is across much of Europe. Italy adopts Catholic mourning customs because of its sizable Catholic population. Black is traditionally worn as the colour of mourning in numerous non-Western cultures as well. 

Traditional mourning customs in Japan involve the widespread use of the colour black. Both traditional kimonos and mourners wearing Western attire may be identified by this colour. Thailand had a year-long period of mourning following the passing of its revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016, during which time everyone donned black clothing and footwear. In fact, many businesses had a scarcity of black clothes during the months of mourning.

Black in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, black is a shade commonly connected with mourning. Black is represented as the colour of darkness in our lives. In fact, due to its past, 21 February, a day engraved in history as our nation's Shaheed Day, is represented by the colour black. On 21 February, we continue to remember the beloved language martyrs of the nation as we observe International Mother Language Day and wear black ribbons as a reminder of the tragedy. 

The colour white is frequently adorned with black to show a suggestion of peace, calm, and better days ahead of the mourning. Even as a mere shade of colours, black and white resonate in our hearts as we sing for the lost lives and our cherished mother tongue.