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  • Evil Iggy
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Re: Funerals
« Reply #30 on: September 11, 2011, 03:56:07 PM »
I have been to two Lutheran funerals, several non-religious funerals (my mother's family, with which I have grown, has never been too religious - proof exists from the 18th century on) and one in-between. The last one was that of my mother's father, who could have belonged to the Lutheran church until his death. Nobody knows for sure, though - he never talked much about anything to do with religion or beliefs. He could have been a freethinker, too, like most significant people in his life were, including my mother's mother. His funeral ceremony had a priest and a prayer, but no other aspects of Lutheran funerals. And religion was not present in any way in his memorial. The woman she lived with for his last years did mention him liking to read the Bible, but that set us relatives trying not to laugh. He liked to read all books, and further, his most famous Bible incident included moonshine, cocoa and my grandmother's crystal vase.

The Lutheran funerals were much like Ereine depicted. An organist, no choir, a priest doing the religious bit, hymns were sung and all that. The coffin was placed on a cart, pushed by the two eldest sons of the deceased to the grave, and then slowly lowered by six men (the closest male relatives strong enough - usually sons and brothers). If the distance from the chapel or church to the grave is short, the coffin will be carried by the six all the way. Then the grave is covered with a lid on which the flowers and wreaths are replaced, and people leave for a memorial. All of the Lutheran funerals I have been to were held in the southeast,where conventions are in higher regard and the culture is more focused on keeping society running nicely (the downside of the culture being very social and cheery on the other hand) than on an individual's freedom to be out of one's mind.

The more interesting burials were those held in the east, the regions of Upper Savonia and Kainuu. There, funerals are planned to celebrate the person to be buried, and thus they can diverse a LOT. The basic structure is, of course, the common one: people gather to the site of the ceremony, perhaps go see the body (yes, I have seen that happen twice), then take their seats in the room the ceremony is held in, a spokesman or a priest opens the ceremony, flowers are placed on the coffin and some words said, songs - not necessarily hymns - are sung, and the coffin is carried or carted to the grave by the closest relatives physically able to do that. If it's summer, the grave is filled right away. First, the six who lowered the coffin take the shovels, and after a while pass their shovel to the next person willing to do some shovelling. If it's winter and the ground is frozen, the lid will be used again, and the grave filled with a bobcat after a few days. After that, there will be the memorial - which is the main event in the east. More about that later.

The diversions, then. First, most of my Eastern funerals were without a priest. These ceremonies were held in suitable buildings near the graveyard, and even they could vary a lot. My granduncle Arttu, an atheist to the bone and rather original a person, insisted that a toast of moonshine be drunk to him in the ceremony, and that Kainuu style burbot soup (his favourite food) would be served in the memorial. His widow had conversed to Christianity in her elder days, and even joined the sect of the Awakened - thus, he wrote in his will that his wife would have no say whatsoever on his burial, and all would be carried out by their children instead. He wanted absolutely no hymns to be sung, but his favourite profane songs instead - these including a staple of Finnish tango, Satumaa (Fairyland, that means), a grievous song about a distant land in which everything would be better. And tango is something that strict Awakened consider the most sinful of all dances. He also had forbidden his wife to invite any of her friends to the funeral, but their children let her, after all. This resulted in a mess in the memorial, when the Awakened started singing their Awakened hymns. After they were driven out, we had a really cozy evening remembering our grand old Arttu, citing his favourite poems and singing songs, telling stories about his life, pondering what he had left to the surviving, and what could be learned of his life. That's what the memorial is all about. It's not a very mournful event at all.

Arttu above was a very, very peculiar person, of course. Others have not gone quite as far in customizing their funerals, but that's about the way it's done: placing some little personal oddities in the common pattern.

Grandma was another thing. She was a freethinker, and was buried to Tuonenviita, the freethinkers' cemetery in Paltamo (Tuonenviita, btw, means The Glade of Tuoni, Tuoni being the ancient Finnish underworld). The cemetery is right next to the Paltamo Lutheran cemetery, in middle of which is the Chapel of Light. That chapel is where the ceremony was held for my dear freethinker grandma, by a Lutheran priest she met on a peace march in the late eighties. There were no prayers but a great speech instead, several songs were sung and one of them was even a hymn (a beautiful one, too). No choir, no organist - the ceremony was against the rules of the Lutheran church. But the priest in question had the key to the chapel, and was asked by my grandmother to do a last favour to a friend, and he did. Both to my grandma and that priest, friendship was a value over organizations and their rules. Her body was the first dead one I ever saw, and I think her burial was the end of my childhood as such. She was buried in the summer, you see. I and a cousin of mine, who is three weeks older than I (we were twelve), were standing looking as grown men shovelled. At one point, we were offered the shovels. We could have said no of course, we were but boys. But then again, it symbolized that the men in our family were getting ready to consider us men instead of mere boys. So we looked each other in the eye, nodded and went a-shovelling. And I am proud we did.

So, traditions can vary even in a small country like Finland. I am quite sure that funeral customs, too, are mainly divided by the general cultural line between the south/west and east/north. I grew up in the geographical area of the former, but adopted the culture of the latter, so I have seen how complete the differences can be.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2011, 04:08:17 PM by Alboury »
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Re: Funerals
« Reply #31 on: September 25, 2011, 01:46:56 AM »
Most of the funerals I've been to have been Catholic. I'm in the US. Some of the traditions are Catholic, some are cultural, depending on whether the family is Irish or Italian or Hispanic, and some are probably regional.

The day before the funeral there are usually visiting hours at a funeral home. Most often there is an open casket, and people line up to say a prayer in front of it. Then they move on to a receiving line, which is mostly the immediate family. After going through the line, guests can either leave, or stay and chat with members of the family and other guests. Usually there are 2-6 hours of visitation. In the past, visitation would take place over two days, but that has changed to one day in recent years. Sometimes the family will have pictures of the deceased and the family displayed. People send flower arrangements and these are displayed around the casket and if there are too many, throughout the rooms.

The funeral is the next day. Prior to the funeral, family and close friends will gather at the funeral home. A few prayers will be said and perhaps a decade of the Rosary will be recited. Then everyone gets in their cars and drives to the church for the funeral. The casket is loaded into a hearse and leads the procession to the church. The immediate family usually rides in cars provided by the funeral home, so that no one has to worry about driving.

At the church, everyone but the family takes their seats and then the casket, now closed, is brought in and carried to the front of the church. The family follows and takes their seats, always up front, usually on the right side of the church.

Mass is said, with a eulogy instead of a homily and with special prayers over the deceased. In recent years, there has been a trend of family members and/or close friends getting up and saying a few words about the deceased.

After Mass, everyone returns to their cars and drives to the cemetery--very few churches have their own cemeteries anymore. The cars will all have their lights on, to indicate that they are following the hearse, and the funeral home usually puts a small flag or sign of some sort on the car to help indicate this as well. This helps the procession stay together, as sometimes you have to drive nearly an hour to the cemetery.

At the cemetery, there will be a few more prayers said and the casket is lowered into the ground. They don't cover it up with dirt until everyone has left. All the flowers from the funeral home are brought to the cemetery and placed around the grave, unless the family requests that something else be done with them.

Then everyone goes either to the home of a family member or to the church hall. Food and drink are served. Sometimes it is catered, sometimes it is done by a church group.

A variation of this is the military funeral, which is a regular funeral, but with a military honor guard, for people who have served in the Armed Forces. The honor guard escorts the casket into the church, and I think stands at the back of the church during the service. At the grave site, they may fire their guns in a salute. There is also a US flag draped over the casket and they remove it and fold it in a very specific manner and present it to a member of the family. They also have a bugler play Taps, which is the song played at the end of the day on military bases and is a traditional tune for a military funeral.
I'm Catholic, too! I'd like to add a few things:

-Where I'm from, it's common to have the wake separated into periods of time, such as from 2-4 and 6-8. Sometimes, if there is a long line, the wake will just go from 2-8.

-The funerals I've been to, the family sits on the left with the pall bearers on the right.

-Depending on the deceased's request, there can be a no eulogy at all or a homily that's centered around the deceased or a homily and words said about the deceased at the end of Mass.

-If it's in the middle of winter or if the ground is frozen or not suitable to be dug into, the casket can be taken to a mausoleum where there are prayers said. Instead of the casket being lowered into the ground, the priest concludes the service, and then everyone leaves. The casket is buried later.