Author Topic: Funerals  (Read 4731 times)

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Ereine

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Funerals
« on: July 24, 2011, 11:15:23 AM »
I hope that this is a suitable topic for this folder.

I went to a funeral this Saturday was struck by how full it was of traditions and unspoken rules. I haven't been to many funerals (fortunately) so I'm not sure how traditional it was but I think that all religious funerals I've been to have been similar. I live in Finland where about 90 % of the population are Lutheran and cemetaries are owned by that church, with very few exceptions so most funerals tend to take place at the cemetary chapel.

The family sits in the front, we were on the right side of the chapel but I don't know if that's traditional. The service began with some organ music and hymns. Then we placed flowers on the casket, first family members and everyone else. The person who laid the flowers would say something and in case of non-family members, nodded at the family (I didn't know you were supposed to do that).

The priest remained completely silent until the flowers were done, then he talked about the deceased, led a prayer and  there was a short sermon. Then more hymns and we gathered the flowers and followed the casket to the burial place where there was another hymn, the casket was lowered to the ground and then covered avain with the flowers (which are left there for days). Afterwards we went to a church hall for food and remembrances.

I was a bit surprised how small the priest's role was during the funeral, it just started and people seemed just to know what to do.

I don't really have an etiquette question, I just found the etiquette of the funeral interesting and am interested in funeral customs of other places. Are choirs common? We only had the organist. I've heard that in some places the bodies are viewed before funerals, we don't do that (but funerals seem to be held sooner in America for example, now it was almost a month after death and we don't use enbalming, or so I've heard). We don't really have funeral processions either, the body is already at the chapel and probably most often the cemetary is usually right next to it. 

(I'm not sure if this is a good topic and it's quite scary to post in a new folder, I hope it goes well).

violinp

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2011, 01:45:30 PM »
It sounds like the US is a bit different. I'm Lutheran, but our service is very different from yours.

Funerals in America usually happen within the week after death. There's a visitation time at the funeral home or the church before the service, where everyone expresses condolences to the bereaved. This usually lasts 2 - 4 hours, to allow everyone to get there (and not everyone stays the whole time, obviously).

Then, everyone goes into the funeral home chapel/church sanctuary, and the service is held. It's a very formal service at my church, with coffin processional, laying of the pall (a banner-like cloth that goes over the coffin) and everything. Quite a few hymns are sung, and 2 - 3 readings, including a Gospel reading are usually read. A communion service may happen, but I've yet to experience one. The choir may sing, but it's not a sure thing.

After the chapel/church service is over, the mourners go to the grave site and there is a graveside service. Then we all go to the bereaved's house or the church fellowship hall for lunch and more condolences. If the lunch is at the church, then a church group, like the Ladies' Sewing Circle, provides the food and drink.

Hope this was/is illuminating!
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Sharnita

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2011, 02:52:55 PM »
Funerals in the US are so varied that I don't know they can be generalized.  Just in Michigan I have been to funerals with open caskets, closed caskets, cremation, burial before the funeral, burial after the funeral...

Sometimes there is a visitation a day or two before the funeral.  Somerimes the funeral is a couple days after the death, sometimes it is more a memorial service days or weeks after the funeral.  There is frequently a funeral procession but not always.  Sometimes there is only a graveside service.

My great aunt was a nun and while the family was welcome at her funeral only those in her order were present for her bural.

Sometimes a church or community group will put on a luncheon afterwaed, sometimes the family will provide it, sometimes it is a bit of both and on occasion there is no lunch.

There might be an organ, might be a singer, might be a choir, might eb communion - but none of those are certain.

Ruelz

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2011, 02:57:08 PM »
I was also raised Lutheran...so am used to fairly traditional funerals...but I've been to some wierd ones as well.

The last one we went to actually upset me a bit.  The family of the deceased, were invited to a BBQ before the viewing (which is fine, they have to eat)...but showed up in Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. :o

I took some pains to dress appropriately, I even went to buy a suitable shirt to wear since I didn't have anything that I thought was appropriate.

Why did I bother?
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violinp

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2011, 03:36:51 PM »
I was also raised Lutheran...so am used to fairly traditional funerals...but I've been to some wierd ones as well.

The last one we went to actually upset me a bit.  The family of the deceased, were invited to a BBQ before the viewing (which is fine, they have to eat)...but showed up in Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. :o

I took some pains to dress appropriately, I even went to buy a suitable shirt to wear since I didn't have anything that I thought was appropriate.

Why did I bother?

Oh dear!
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Nibsey

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2011, 03:53:25 PM »
Funerals in my area (Ireland) are pretty traditional and some people might find them a bit offputting. After the deceased is dead the clocks are stopped, the curtain and binds are closed, black ribbon is placed on the front door and all mirrors are covered. The deceased is usually brought back to the house for the wake. Family members and close friends bring food and alcohol. There are 2 types of wakes in my experience, the ones where the deceased is brought to the church around 9pm and left in the church overnight which are generally much more solomn events or a traditional wake where someone stays with the body at all times and the house is full of people eating, drinking (a really traditional wake everyone will toast the deceased with whiskey), singing and teling stories about the deceased.

The next day the priest arrives and prays over the body and a hearse arrives to bring the deceased to the church first for mass and then to the graveyard. Once the deceased leaves the house the curtains are open and the clocks are put back on. After the funeral, which is generally a normal mass and a eulogy and the burial itself which is different depending on religion, everyone either goes back to the house for tea and sandwiches or to a local pub for alcohol and sandwiches.

The only other funeral tradition I can think of is you don't get or send Christmas cards to the deceased family for a year.
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camlan

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2011, 06:06:48 PM »
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.
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Ereine

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2011, 01:20:44 AM »
Camlan, I find this interesting "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." There's usually only one cemetery in a town here and though you might not have the funeral at the chapel of that cemetery it's usually nearby. The hearse will have a Finnish flag if it's transporting a body, or so I've heard but everyone else just gets to the cemetery. I don't even know how you could mark the procession as you have to have lights on at all times, unless they used cars owned by the undertakers (in the recent funeral I went to and probably all the others we didn't see the undertakers at all, part from the catering that was apparently organized by them. There was a man who instructed the pall bearers but he belonged to the church).

My grandfather who died a few years ago was a veteran of WWII and though his funeral reflected it, it wasn't really military. I don't know if it would be different for someone who was still in the military but I doubt it, though I could easily be mistaken. Almost all the men and some women have served, as it's still compulsory for men and we haven't taken officially part in wars since WWII so it is different. By grandfather's funeral had a choir of old veterans, that was the only military thing.

I was told that Finland was a bit unusual during WWII in the sense that we took back all the dead or at least tried to, it was easier as we only fought Russia. As a result Finnish cemeteries will have a section of "hero dead" and at Christmas, which is probably the biggest grave visiting occasion, there will be a guard honoring them (not enviable in Finnish winter). My step niece grew up in Sweden and as a child was very confused by the graves, the last war they fought involved Napoleon.

camlan

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2011, 09:41:42 AM »
Ereine, some cars here automatically turn on the headlights when you start the car; others do not. The custom of turning on your headlights started long ago, when everyone had to manually turn on their lights. I think it originated with the military, where headlights on indicated a convoy. These days, the lights are supplemented by most funeral homes with a flag, something like these: http://funeralsourceone.com/ProcessionFlags.aspx .

In many states, funeral processions can drive right through intersections, without having to stop for red lights. So it's important that other drivers be able to identify those cars.

As for cemeteries, I live near Boston, which is an older, fairly large city. Most of the cemeteries in and near Boston are full, so more cemeteries have been created, but they are getting farther and farther out of town, where there's available land. In addition, there are some cemeteries that are only for certain religions--there are Jewish cemeteries and Catholic cemeteries and I'm sure other religions have their own. There are also cemeteries where your religion or lack of religion doesn't matter at all. Those cemeteries might have a section for Jews, a section for Catholics, or they might not. In the religious cemeteries, it is usually possible for a non-Jewish or non-Catholic spouse or child to be buried beside their spouse or parent. Some cemeteries have a section reserved for veterans of military service. On Memorial Day, when we honor those who have died in military service*, many cemeteries will put small US flags on the graves of veterans.

Because there are so many cemeteries and most of them are miles and miles away (driving for a stretch on the Interstate highway isn't uncommon), most people attending the funeral aren't going to have any idea where the cemetery is. They may not even know how to get to the town or city it is located in. So keeping the funeral procession together becomes important, so that people don't get lost.


*Memorial Day's original intent was to honor the war dead. It has grown to include honoring the graves of all military personnel. And in recent years, many people take the holiday to include honoring the graves of all deceased family members.
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kherbert05

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2011, 12:44:47 PM »
Mom's funeral

Her siblings (from PEI, Canada) were shocked we didn't have a receiving line at the wake.  The Texans atttending would have been completely confused. We also didn't have a full Rosery on the Deacon's advise because the only Catholics attending were Sis, Me, 3 Aunts, 3 Uncles, 5 of Dad's Cousins, and a few friends. The other 40 some people ran the gamut of religions in the US. Our Aunts and Uncles were surprised that the majority of the people at a Catholic Funeral and wake would not be Catholic.
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ClaireC79

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2011, 03:03:20 PM »
In Wales (or at least South Wales) traditionally only men will go to the actual interment, women would only go to the service.

It does seem to be changing more now but most older people stick to it and wish it for their own funeral (my nephew's funeral was the first time I actually went to the graveside, everyone else's only attended the service and get together afterwards)

Snowy Owl

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2011, 04:56:02 PM »

I'm fascinated by the idea of visiting / viewing as that's alien to me, so is having an open casket.  I've never known anyone have any form of visiting.  I come from the north of England. 

For Grandmother's funeral we had a service at the church by the vicar, two hymns and readings by her grandchildren (one bible and two poems).  Most of the local area attended.  The family then went to the crematorium for the cremation.  While we were there the caterers laid out the funeral tea in the church hall.  We went back to the hall after the cremation and mingled, greeted people etc.

We then went back to the house with the family and very close friends and drank rather a lot of brandy and reminisced about her. 

In my experience in the UK some people skip the part in the church and have the whole service at the crematorium.  There's usually a funeral tea afterwards (cake, sandwiches and tea and coffee) either in a church hall, a function room or someone's house depending on individual preference and financial constraints.  Regardless of the time of day at which it's served, it's always called a funeral tea in my family. 
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Sharnita

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2011, 05:23:33 PM »
I don't know that I've ever heard of anybody in the uS having a service at the crematorium or even family being present for the cremation at all.  It might happen but I haven't heard of it.

dawnfire

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2011, 04:03:59 AM »
here's a funeral tradition here that i wonder about the history of. It applies to horse riders. There will be a riderless horse in the procession to the cemetary with a pair of  riding boots slung over the saddle facing backwards (the boots are faceing backwards). does anyone know why?

Twik

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Re: Funerals
« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2011, 10:31:14 AM »
It's a cavalry tradition, I believe. The only time I can recall seeing it was for JFK's funeral.

(That's the only thing I CAN remember of that event. I was very young, and the horse caught my attention.)

ETA: Wikipedia to the explanation here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riderless_horse. It's for military officers, not just people who like riding. The boots facing backwards are to represent "the leader looking back at his troops for the last time".
« Last Edit: July 27, 2011, 10:35:27 AM by Twik »
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