If asked to name the color of death and mourning, Europeans will choose black; whereas Asians and many other races will pick white.

Black signifies darkness and the absence of light. However, you will often find white tombstones in European cemeteries.

This black headstone is in memory of a deaf woman. Visitors to the cemetery leave pennies on her stone
This black headstone is in memory of a deaf woman. Visitors to the cemetery leave pennies on her stone

At the Mollendal graveyard in Bergen, Norway, a private company was hired by the municipality to maintain the cemetery. In 2013, a notice pinned to hundreds of headstones informed families of the deceased that maintenance fees were due. (The Norwegian municipal government covers the costs of maintenance and rental for 25 years, thereafter it falls upon the families to pay the annual fee.) After 6 months, the headstone was then covered with a locked black plastic bag with a further notice identifying that the stone will be removed unless payment is made for the upkeep of the grave. Failure to make payment results in removal of the headstone and the interred in order to reuse the plot.


White recalls the color of the bones and the paleness of the corpse.
But here in this graveyard that is still no man’s land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
To a whole generation that was butchered and damned.

White doves also appear as motifs in the European sepulchral arts.

Catholics and High-Church Anglicans recognize purple as the color of mourning. Priests wear purple or violet robes at funeral masses for the dead, recalling Christ’s passion, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Chinese tombstones often appear before the deceased has passed. Red lettering shows that the person named is still alive. When the person dies, the stone cutter repaints the letters in white.

Milton_Evergreen_Luu (jap)



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