During the mid-nineteenth century in Sweden hard sugar candies, typically in the form of a corpse and wrapped in black crepe paper with fringes became a popular funeral favor.
Offered to funeral attendees with wine prior to the service, these little candy corpses wrapped up in a black shroud soon became a Swedish custom.
According to Mats Bigert, “The wrapper was fringed, and the length and width of the fringes suggested the age of the deceased; long and thin would indicate the death of an old person.” Shorter, wider fringe would then be indicative of a child or younger individual.
The wrappers would sometimes be adorned with ornately patterned silver paper, pictures of cherubs, or the more somber choice of a silhouetted crucifix or graveside setting.
Verses, prayers and poems attached to the candies were also commonplace. They ran the gamut from such grim treasures as:
The dark, quiet abyss;
All our days will end like this.
To an odd, moralistic pep rally:
Death shall one day all us fetter.
Pray, repent, act and make better.
Consider, human, what you do.
You never know when life is through.
World War I and imposed sugar rationing proved to be the death knell for these funereal favors. Interestingly, I have found a few references to people now using the surviving candies as ornaments on Christmas trees, which I find strangely fitting.
Mats Bigert, Sweet Kiss of Death, Cabinet Magazine, Issue 49, Death, Spring 2013
Special thanks to author, Bess Lovejoy for the source info.
Images 1-3 Begravnings Museum
Image 4 Vintage By Nina