Common Funeral Customs

What is customary at a funeral can depend on many factors. Chief among them would be religion. Religions around the world have their own customs when it comes to funerals. They may cremate the body, or wrap the body in such a way as to prepare it for the afterlife, or they may simply bury the body. A sky burial is a practice in which the body is taken to the mountain top where it is left so as to be devoured by animals, especially birds of prey. So you can see there are many, varied types of funeral customs.

What holds true in all funeral customs are the factors of death, the dispensing of the corpse, and the period of observance. In all cases the individual is predominant in a funeral custom. All acts and rituals, regardless of religion are tied to the individual who has passed away. The celebration or mourning of this individual depends on the customs. Not only is religion paramount in determining the custom, but culture plays a large role as well. Many African-American cultures differ from that of Mexican-American or Italian-American cultures. All may be in some part abiding by the same religious doctrine, but their cultural identity can intercede and dominate the funeral proceedings thus becoming in part, a funeral custom.

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Funeral customs, in general, are also in flux. Not every ceremony is maintained through generations. In some cases a burial might be forgone altogether. And although attended by some, the family of the departed might choose to have a breakfast buffet where everyone can get together and celebrate the live that has passed instead of mourn it at a cemetery surround by death and sorrow. This movement towards a “lighter” funeral as been in the works for sometime but only recently accepted and received as agreeable by the generation currently burying their family members. One reason may be the fact that these types of celebrations no longer have the heavy costs nor do they require much in the way of forethought or planning.  The onset of the digital image galleries, iPod remote stereos and projection screens have allowed for a celebration of music, image and spoken word to take place at fraction of the cost of what it might have been just a few years ago. This funeral custom, or digital celebration, although not ingrained in any one tradition as of yet may well prove to be a funeral custom of the future.

One things that funerals still have in common and probably will until the end of time is the effort made to ease the pain of losing a loved one. The casket viewing, the eulogy and in large part the simple gathering of friends is done not only to honor the deceased, but more importantly to alleviate the hurt and sorrow that always accompanies the lost of someone dear to us. As funeral customs, this is primary and inherent in the funeral itself. Not matter the passing of time or the changing in technologies, this tenent of the funeral will never change.

Funeral customs vary in many subtle ways from traditional religious ceremonies to modern celebrations. But the one thing they keep in common is the acknowledgement and remembrance of the individual, the attention the final resting place of the body, and the effort to assuage the suffering of those who have been left behind.

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