Funeral customs

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by coppergirl, May 14, 2006.

  1. coppergirl

    coppergirl Senior Member

    London, England
    Hi all!

    I was wondering what funeral customs are like around the world. (I may have to attend a funeral later this week, which is why I thought of this).

    In the USA, my family usually had an open-casket wake for a day or so before the funeral where people gathered round the dead person's body to pray and say goodbye to them privately, whilst consoling other family members and friends. Then there was a funeral a day or so after that.

    In England, my husband's family say that this custom has not been done here since Victorian times and people NEVER see the dead body at a wake, but just have a quiet memorial service with a closed casket. He thinks the whole idea of seeing a dead body in a casket is not something he could cope with culturally, as he has never done this in England.

    So the question is, do people in other countries still have wakes with an open casket or is this really mainly just in America nowadays?

    Sorry if it's a bit morbid . . . just curious! :)

  2. coconutpalm

    coconutpalm Senior Member

    Shanghai, China
    I attended my grandpa's funeral nine years ago and my grandma's,um, two years ago. We have wakes, but the caskets were closed. However, we didn't strike nails into them to shut them dead tight until moment before we buried the body.
  3. Eloisa Giseburt Senior Member

    Spanish- Mexico
  4. maxiogee Banned

    When my parents died we had an open-casket for my dad. He was taken home from the hospital where he died.
    Family and friends gathered. He was in one of the bedrooms and people left the main room quietly for a few moments alone with the remains.
    On the morning before the funeral the coffin was closed and remained in the house until about 5:30pm when we carried it the few hundred yeards to his local church. The local police held up the traffic to facilitate us. This was three miles from the centre of Dublin and we didn't have to ask them to do this. The undertaker told them the removal was that evening and they just assumed that we might wish to carry him, so there were there in case we did.

    A few years later when my mother died she was in a nursing home and she was in a closed coffin for less than a day. The nuns who ran the home did not offer the facility of a room where we might have had an open coffin, and we didn't wish to bring her to the one family hosue she could have gone to (for reasons of family politics, alas). So although I'm not the eldest, people came to my home after a brief visit to the nursing home and we had a corpse-less wake. The remains were removed (by hearse) from the nursing home (who didn't seem to wish to have a coffin being seen to be carried away followed by a retinue of mourners) and driven the almost-a-mile to the local church.

    Many people here avail of the services of funeral parlours for the open-casket part of the obsequies. Many of the big undertakers companies have 'branches' in the suburbs which have several rooms to facilitate this.
    When my wife's father died in a rural area, the family did not wish to encourage too many to call to the house and so they used the local funeral parlour. This is a growing trend in Ireland.
  5. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    I'm not Christian, so I'll speak of the muslim tradition (in Egypt, I don't about the other countries) just in case anyone would be interested in knowing.

    First, we have a proverb (maybe from a religious origin, but I'm not 100% sure) that says : (Ikraam el-mayyet dafno) which means : honoring a dead person is by burrying him/her. Thus when a person dies, the family rushes to finish the paper work (?) -that is the burrial permission- as quickly as possible, so they can honor their beloved one.
    Before the burrial, the corpse is taken to a mosque, people make a certain prayer (called salaat al-janaza "the funeral prayer"), than take the person to his/her grave (sorry, I can't remember any of the literary expressions about this subject).
    After the burrial, there's a sort of "condolence ceremony" (couldn't find a better translation :eek: ) where people go offer their condolencens/ sympathies to the family.

    As you see, this is very different from the Western costum of the wake, which by the way I first learned about in Camus' L'Etranger, and of course you can tell for yourselves that we can't have here because it goes absolutely against our tradition in "honoring our death".
  6. maxiogee Banned

    In hot climates the speed with which a person is buried tells us about the local rate of decomposition as compared to colder climates.
    I don't think I'd like to see a long-drawn out process liek we sometimes have here in Ireland. When my dad died it was about five days from death to funeral service.
  7. coppergirl

    coppergirl Senior Member

    London, England
    Of course, in America, if the person has had a very bad or long illness and does not look good, often the family will have a closed casket out of respect. Otherwise, the undertakers make the person up with special make up to look as good as they can (under the circumstances).

    Mourners are expected to say things like "They look very good" or "They look peaceful at last" and things like that. My husband finds it difficult to understand how people could look good when they are dead.

    All the same, if people had a special dress or suit, they are often laid out in that as it was their favourite. Similarly, they are often laid out in the casket with a religious object in their hands---a rosary or bible sometimes. My great-grandfather got buried with his favourite pipe in his pocket.

    I have heard that in the Jewish religion as well, people get buried within 24 hours and so do not have the custom of a wake or open casket.

    Thanks to all who have responded so far. It is very interesting to see how this is viewed in other countries.
  8. ElaineG

    ElaineG Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    Yes, in Judaism, we believe that the body should be buried as quickly as possible in a plain wood casket. The funeral will always take place with in 48 hours, and often within 24. It is considered disrepectful to delay burial.

    There is no tradition of open-casket viewing, partly because Jewish law considers the practice of embalming to be a desecration of the body, so the corpse is not likely to be too lovely.

    After burial, the immediate family sits "shiva" for a period of 7 days. Everyone -- friends, family, co-workers etc. -- is supposed to stop by the mourners' home during this period, usually bringing something to eat (this is known as "paying a shiva call").

    The nature of "shiva" really depends on the family and the circumstances of the death. Although there are many somber traditions associated with shiva -- all mirrors in the house are supposed to be covered, the mourners are supposed to sit on low stools (i.e., not be to comfortable), and the immediate family is supposed to rend their clothes (usually accomplished these days with a symbolic small tear -- in practice, when the deceased is elderly or another death that is not too tragic for whatever reason, shiva ends up being much like a "wake", with lots of eating, conversation and socializing. Of course, at other times, shiva is too sad for words. It really depends on the family and the circumstances.

    Edit: Unsurprisingly, of course, since we are close cousins underneath it all, our practice sounds more similar to the Islamic/Egyptian tradition described by Cherine than the typical American big casket, loads of flowers, etc. funeral.
  9. Eloisa Giseburt Senior Member

    Spanish- Mexico

    Cherine thank you very much for sharing!:)
  10. maxiogee Banned

    We do not honour the death, we celebrate the life of the departed.
  11. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi Senior Member

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    In my village in Bolivia, every occasion was marked by the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. Usually it was chicha, a beer made from a corn base.

    There is, of course, a funeral when somebody dies, but the really big day is Todos Santos, All Souls Day on November 1st. Every family who's lost a member during the preceeding year holds a big party to welcome the dear departed back for a visit, and the festivities go on for about four days. On November 1st itself (this happens in many other Latin American countries, most notably Mexico), the families go to the cemetary to clean and decorate the graves and niches and have a nice visit with the deceased, catching them up on all the family gossip from the past year.

    At night, you go round to all the parties the bereaved are throwing. The main room in the house has a big table with one end against the wall, and is literally covered in plates of cakes and breads. The breads are all baked in different shapes: llamas, birds, people, cats, donkeys, etc. A big bread doll, representing the deceased, sits at the head of the table. All the plates of food are decorated with little plastic flags in blue, purple and black; and big garlands of the same colour flank the table. There are also lots of bare branches stuck into pots and decorated by tying cigarettes to them. Finally, and most importantly as far as the guests are concerned, there are also numerous leaky plastic jugs of chicha and a kind of brandy.

    The routine is this. You recite prayers to expedite the deceased's departure from Purgatory. You then have a mug of chicha (this is how I picked up typhoid), pouring a little on the earthen or flagstone floor before drinking to honour the Earth Mother. You then repeat the procedure. Presently, you go on to the next house on the circuit and repeat the procedure there.

    After a few hours the whole population in the village is laughing or crying (or both) hysterically, brawling vigorously, passed out on the cobblestones, or back home having some quick nookie (most Bolivian campesino babies are still conceived during fiestas). Even the children are drunk.

    The whole thing is really quite unforgettable.

    Edit: This is really in response to Coppergirl's first question, "I was wondering what funeral customs are like around the world", and not to her last question asking about open versus closed caskets. I can return and delete this post altogether if she wishes the topic to remain viewing the deceased.
  12. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Thank you Eloisa.

    Ooops. Sorry, I didn't mean we honour the death (I personally don't see what's to be honoured in it) I meant : we honor the "dead". :eek:
    As I said at the begining of my previous post : honoring the dead is burying them (as quickly as possible).

    Yes, Elaine, I noticed the resemblances too :) I was a little bit amazed, but not very astonished because I know that Islamic and Jewish traditions have a lot in common.
    Amazingly though, this cloth rending custom is sometimes still done by some people (specially in rural areas and the south), but religiously speaking (in Islam I mean) it's "haram" (i.e. religiously unlawful).

    Also, I forgot to say that we don't bury our deceased in caskets, which are only used to "transport" the body from the house/hospital/morgue... to the grave. Bodies are wrapped with cloth (a bit like a mummy), and are burried in their shroud, not the casket.
  13. danielfranco

    danielfranco Senior Member

    I have just realized what a sheltered and disconnected existence I have lived...
    I cannot remember attending but only two funerals in my whole life! Both my paternal grandma and grandpa, when their time came, died at their home and had their closed-casket wakes in a funeral parlor, where the family received the mourners for a day (I think it was only one day... I can't remember). Either the same day or the day after they were laid to rest on a ground grave. I cannot remember much in the way of what is suppossed to be traditional or not, because my grandparents were both protestant, and in Mexico evangelical protestants don't seem to have many rituals or customs when it comes to the actual death... Or at least that's how I perceived it as a child back in Mexico.
  14. lizzeymac

    lizzeymac Senior Member

    New York City
    English - USA
    Can anyone tell us a bit about the actual burial & gravesite traditions?

    Do you have a burial in the earth with a headstone or above ground in a crypt or cremation?

    Who attends the burial ceremony - only family or everyone?

    How often do people visit the burial sites?

    A question about a jewish burial:
    I recently attended a ceremony with my friend for installing the headstone at for her grandfather's grave. I believe it was one year after the burial? The family members each placed a small pebble on the headstone, I didn't want to bother anyone at the time but I wondered why.
  15. coconutpalm

    coconutpalm Senior Member

    Shanghai, China
    You all described burials in your country in great detail! Well, I 'd like to talk more about the burial of my grandpa.
    My grandpa died of disease, so we were well prepared. The day he died, friends, relatives and his family members were summoned to attend the burial.
    Family members, that is, wife(my grandma),sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law were required to wear special clothes and scarves made of linen. And some close relatives also this kind of clothes and scarves, but they were shorter than ours.
    We set up a mourning hall. The casket lay there, and the family members and close relatives stayed there. Whenever someone came in to pay respect to the body, he/she knelt down to make kowtows and we knelt down to show oour gratitude. And after more or less 3 days, Taoist priests or monks, or in some cases, both Taoist priests and monks prayed.
    At last, all the family members, relatives and friends that came to help lined out to say farewell to the soul of my grandpa. We went all around the village (in the urban areas, around the residence district).
    This ceremony often lasts for 7 days nowadays. In the old days, it could last as long as 49 days. And some families today shorten it due to various reasons, for example, some family member has to go back to work, or it's too hot, or some important family member is against superstitious practice.
    The day of burial was rather simple to the preceding ceremonines. Having buried the body, we went back to have a dinner, or banquet. The dinner resembled the wedding meal, except that the decorations were black and white.
    To lizzey: We have a grand gravestone on the earth.
    We visit the burial sites on the last day of a year and Qinnming Day, both according to the luna calendar.
    All I have said is my personal experience. As you know, China is a big country, the traditions vary from place to place, and from urban to rural.
  16. coppergirl

    coppergirl Senior Member

    London, England

    Thanks, Chaska, for your post!

    No---no need to keep the topic too closed or specific---whatever people are happy to share is fine with me! Very interesting customs--- it rather beats the stuff we do in my family.
  17. coppergirl

    coppergirl Senior Member

    London, England
    coconutpalm wrote:

    "The casket lay there, and the family members and close relatives stayed there. Whenever someone came in to pay respect to the body, he/she knelt down to make kowtows and we knelt down to show oour gratitude."

    HI coconutpalm!

    I was curious--- do the modern Chinese still 先? I mean, I have heard that this still goes on in places, but I do not know whether it is something which the Chinese still do? (For everyone who is not into Mandarin, the term is "bai zuxian" which means sort of say respectful prayers to the ancestors, usually in a small family shrine.) I am not a native Chinese and my Mandarin is also rusty, so please correct any characters or misspellings!
  18. ElaineG

    ElaineG Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    I have never found a good explanation for why we do this. Some people say it harks back to the ancient days when graves were marked with a heap of stones. More concretely, because flowers were not traditionally used (although they have become more common, and there is no prohibition that I know of on bringing flowers to a grave, and in fact in Israel it seems pretty popular), it was a way of showing your respect that you had visited without leaving flowers.

    Edit: Sorry, this all relates to Jewish tradition. I thought I said that somewhere but I didn't. :eek:
  19. Oche Gruso Member

    Brooklyn, NY
    English, USA
    I have a sincere question (Although you will probably laugh). I have always heard that Irish funerals make for a swining time. i.e, Pleanty of drinking, less crying and more re-telling good times with the deceased. Is this true or is this just another tradition that Americans screwed up (like St. Patrick's Day)?
    My family is warped as far as funerals go. We have the opened-casket wake, however instead of being buried we are cremated, and the eldest child of the deceased is the one to press the incinerator's button.
  20. maxiogee Banned

    A good Irish funeral will have a bit of life to it! (Sorry about that! ;))
    There will be stories told of the dead person - usually aimed at getting a smile out of the mourners, and in families which are accustomed to singing, someone may sing a song the deceased was fond of.
    These things are done to assure the family that the non-family who are there shared their opinions of the deceased, and may even have known aspects of them which the family did not. I learned a few things when my Dad died.
    As I said earlier, an Irish funeral is about celebrating the life of the deceased.
    Let us not forget that funeral rituals are rarely about the deceased, they are about consoling the bereaved.
  21. coconutpalm

    coconutpalm Senior Member

    Shanghai, China
    To make sure my answer is well-grounded, I asked all my dormmates, that is, five of them, from all over the country, rural and urban. Our answers are all "Yes", but not as formal or important as in the old times, though.
    Your Mandarin is perfect! We 祭拜祖先,祭祖,祭奠祖先,etc.
  22. coppergirl

    coppergirl Senior Member

    London, England
    Another thing I remember about the open casket wakes in our family was that the Protestant half of the family didn't actually pray by the casket, whereas the Catholic half knelt down and said prayers by the deceased. I remarked on this to my mother, who pointed out that it was not tradition on the Anglican side of the family to actually pray by the body and that it was a Catholic thing to do. I remember being surprised because none of the dead man's siblings prayed by his casket.

    Actually, reading Maxiogee's post about Irish funerals, our family funerals were sombre, but the wakes were fairly noisy since people met who had not met each other in years. Every now and then the family elders would tell us to hush and keep it down, since there might be others in the funeral home having their own wakes and we should not get too loud.

    At the funeral supper in the restaurant afterwards, we tended to have a separate room set off for anyone who felt they might cry or want to have some private time to collect themselves. However, most of the time at the funeral supper was like the wake---fairly noisy, with people saying lots of nice stuff about the deceased and often telling jokes and things.

    I add this only because actually---unlike Maxiogee---I am not Irish ethnically but half Polish and the other half is sort of a mix of German and English. I wonder if this is a general American thing, or a Catholic thing, or just our family?
  23. geve

    geve Senior Member

    France, Paris
    France, French
    I don't have an answer for the open casket actually... It made me realize that the first funeral I attended, at the beginning of the 90's, there was indeed an open casket wake right before the funeral... but for all the other funerals that I have attended more recently in the past 3 years, there has never been an open casket. The undertaker might have mentioned it, though.

    In France, by law the burial must take place within a week after the death. Everyone attends the funeral. The burial is usually in the earth with a headstone, but cremation is also possible.
    There isn't much of a "party" afterwards. There is usually a small buffet(organized by the close relatives) and people will discuss softly. Of course this might depend on the religious and cultural background of the decease.
    As for how often people visit the burial site, it really depends... if they live close to it, how religious or traditional they are, what the family habits are... All in all, generally not very often I would say; All Saints' Day being the one day that people will visit if they only visit once.
  24. maxiogee Banned

    Headstones are not usually erected in Ireland until a year after the interment. This is to allow the ground time to settle. This means that headstones tend to stay vertical, as they were intended, and not go lop-sided due to subsidence. There is no rule about this, as far as I know, just custom.
  25. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi Senior Member

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Last week one of our students died of cancer, so we've been dealing with a lot of questions from her schoolmates. Since her departure coincided with the Vatican's decree that Purgatory's apparently removed from their evolutionary scale, I've been thinking on traditions associated with death.

    Here we have open caskets, closed caskets, wakes, cremations, pet cemeteries, scattering of ashes over favourite places, sending ashes up in fireworks or shooting them in shotgun cartridges, all sorts of flavours of send-off. The funeral services have become as individual as the person who has died. Personally I like the Quaker memorial Meeting, where there is no service but where people rise and speak as they are led. However, the last funeral I attended had a smarmy minister with a lot of platitudes who had never met the dead person, and the grave was carefully surrounded by astroturf so as to avoid any glimpse of bare earth. If I had to pick one word most generally associated with death in Canada, I'd choose the word "euphemism"

    In what ways does your culture deal with death?

    Edit: If I'd read all the way through the "Open Casket Wakes" thread, I'd have realised that it was about more than just open versus closed caskets. Sorry, folks ... the two threads are now merged.
  26. alexacohen

    alexacohen Banned

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish. Spain
    In rural communities usually the casket is delivered to the deceased house and left in a room (emptied of all furniture except chairs), so friends and neighbours can sit and speak to the family. The casket may be open or closed: if the person died peacefully, it's usually left open, but if the person died in a car crash, for instance, the case will be closed.
    In cities this is not possible; many hospitals have their own, I don't know if this is correct, funereal rooms? where the people who have died at the hospital are taken.
    There are also crematories, as scattering the ashes is becoming quite common.
    And there is also, of course, the possibility of leaving your body to the University so medical students can practice with it.
    There are not many cemeteries for pets. Either you bury them yourself if you live in the country, or you take them to the vet to be cremated.
  27. Joca

    Joca Senior Member

    Florianópolis, Brazil
    Brazilian Portuguese
    I think funerals are much the same in Brazil as they appear to be in Spain. I would mention the widespread use of flowers and banners in the deathwatch room, or whatever you call it in English. I have read that in some countries people eat at funerals, but this would never happen here. Often people say a prayer as the casket is closed. As this is mainly a Catholic country, cremation is not much used here yet. Besides, it is a lot more expensive for most people.

    Usually men carry the coffin to the grave. I have never seen women doing that.

    In general, I think death is viewed with despair, especially if the dead is a young person or they had a sudden or tragical death. On the other hand, the wake and the burial are so to say done away with a lot more quickly nowadays than in the past, as if one couldn't afford to waste time.
  28. tvdxer Senior Member

    Minnesota, U.S.A.
    Minnesota, U.S.A. - English
    I had to face the completely unexpected death of my father last October, so I've learned a lot about this sort of thing, even if I rather would have not wanted to.

    Immediately after his death (my mother woke that morning to find him cold and not breathing), we called the ambulance, who transported him to (I'm not sure) a funeral home or to be examined (when somebody dies this young, they are automatically chosen to be autopsied). Being a Catholic family, we had my dad's funeral at a mass the Friday of the week of his death (he died in his sleep in the early AM hours Sunday), strangely enough following a wake (I think) earlier that morning. After the mass, there was a reception, with food and lots of conversation, fairly upbeat considering the circumstances. After that, he was transported in a hearst to be buried. That ended the official ceremonies.

    I think death is something Americans simply don't want to think about. We don't even like to consider old age. I suppose if the person who dies is 85 or 90, it's really not that sad, considering they've led a long, probably rich life, are now likely old and somewhat disabled, and ready to pass into the next life. When the person who dies is my father's age, and leaves a grieving mother with three children and a business to run, there are a lot of questions, and it is not accepted so easily. It's probably even harder when it's a young person who dies.

    For non-Catholics, services are generally less formal and (in my opinion) sometimes rather irreverent. A few months before my father's death, my aunt's mother died, was cremated, and for her funeral (more of a memorial service, held at a funeral home) we downloaded her favorite rock songs off iTunes.
  29. alexacohen

    alexacohen Banned

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish. Spain
    Dear Joca:
    I forgot to mention the flowers and the banners... they are common here too.
    And yes, the coffin is always carried by four men. And burials are very expensive, too. Many people have a "burial saving account".
  30. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi Senior Member

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    I am so sorry about your father.

    The reception is pretty much a given here, no matter what happens at the funeral itself. Sometimes it's potluck, but usually it's catered through the funeral home. The Quakers aren't much given to wakes, but tend to eat together through thick and thin. When there's a wedding .... we eat. After Meeting .... we eat. During a crisis .... we definitely eat.

    Re your iPod comment - it's become much more common to play music that was meaningful to the dead person than to sing traditional hymns like "Abide With Me". In one beautiful funeral, our neighbour's granddaughter went to the piano and played all the old hymns that her grandmother had loved, teaching the congretation to sing every one of them.
  31. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    Cremation is the most popular option for Indians (excluding Parsi, Christian, and Muslim communities). The deceased are cremated and their ashes are dispersed in a holy location (the Ganges for Hindus and the Sikh location escapes me right now).
    You do not eat at these occasions and it is the eldest male son's job to oversee everything, traditionally including the lighting of the funeral pyre. I cannot imagine how difficult of a task this must be. The garb worn is white, in direct contrast with that of the west. If the wife is widowed, she breaks all of her bangles and ceases to wear vermilion in her hair. She typically wears white for the rest of her life and is not as socially active. In the past, the practice of Sati was not uncommon (from what I gathered) where the wife would throw herself on the funeral pyre with her deceased husband. This last point, thankfully, is no longer the case.

    I have had the fortune of never having to go a funeral of a loved one. I went to a Hindu funeral once of a good friend whose grandmother passed, and they had an open casket service. They then afterwards removed the casket and took the body to be cremated in a crematorium.

    I don't really know how death is dealt with afterwards. Some draw strength from loved ones and relatives, who will stick by you to make sure you are taken care of and well tended too in the initial months. Others incorporate religion as their panacea. I have no clue how to make sense of either or; I think these last two options are quite universal to society in general. Something has to form the crutch to help you out, right?
  32. alexacohen

    alexacohen Banned

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish. Spain
    But death takes you always unawares, and is always senseless. No matter how many deaths of your friends and your kin you have survived. The pain and the loneliness are as new, and as raw, as the first time.
  33. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi Senior Member

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Re my opening post: I mixed up purgatory and limbo. Limbo has been banished, but the concept of purgatory remains.

    Here you can read the article.

    I'm sorry that I didn't check my sources before posting! :eek:
  34. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi Senior Member

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Embarassed Moderator Note: I'd forgotten that there was an existing thread on this topic. These two threads have now been merged.
  35. katie_here Senior Member

    Whenever I see a programme/film set in America and there is a funeral, the family are always sitting on chairs around the grave side. Why is this?

    Do they hold the service there? Do they hold services in church beforehand?

    In England I've never ever seen chairs by a grave side and just wondered what it is all about.

  36. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hello Katie_here,

    It is all part of a great conspiracy (after all, what isn't these days?) to persuade foreigners that Americans will take any excuse at all to sit their portly rears on a chair.

    I have been to many funerals in the U.S., and have never seen a single chair at a cemetery grave site. That's not to say that such things don't exist; in a country this large, there is room for all sorts of customs. I've been to burials in California and N.Y. and the New England states, and have yet to see a chair.

    Services are held where a family wants them held. This may include churces, cemeteries, funeral homes, or other spots.
  37. palomnik Senior Member

    Personally, in all my life in the States I've never been to a funeral where there were chairs at graveside. Of course, if there is a ceremony at the cemetery I suppose it would be acceptable, and if it's a funeral for a major personage there probably would be seating there.
  38. katie_here Senior Member

    Thankyou for those replies.

    The film I've seen it in that prompted the question is "Sleepless in Seattle" where in the opening scene, there is a man and child at one side of the grave and a whole load of seated people at the other.

    It must be a conspiracy, because I can't think of any funeral I've seen in an American film/programme where they didn't have chairs around the graveside.

    ps. is Graveside one word or two?
  39. avok

    avok Banned

    I have seen those chairs too (in the movies of course :D ) My interpretation is that they are for the elderly people as they are so sad that they can barely stand.
  40. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
  41. EmilyD Senior Member

    Rhode Island
    U.S., English
    Once after a Mass (Roman Catholic), I went to a graveside service, and there were some chairs, which I think, were mostly used by the most elder mourners. The priest may have led another prayer ( I don't recall) and then the burial was done...

    This was in Rhode Island.

  42. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    I have been to several interments here in California. They are usually separate from, and in addition to, a church or chapel service. At some of these graveside services there have been folding chairs available for the immediate family and the elderly. Most people stood.

    I can't think of a situation personally where there was a graveside service only, although I know that is an option. I am only sharing personal experience.
  43. gurseal Senior Member

    USA Southeast
    English - USA
    The 5 funerals I have attended in the last 5 years included two or three handfuls of chairs provided by the funeral homes that handled the church service and burial. The chairs were for close, elderly and/or female relatives who wanted or needed to sit. No services were held at the burial site. They were held at a church.

    The young, the younger adults, and the healthy men KNOW not to sit if there are elderly friends or mothers with infants present. These people take their places behind the chairs rather than on them.

    Maybe the chairs are an additional, gratis service that the funeral home offers to improve or solidify its reputation with other families in future need of a funeral home. I've even known funeral homes to have umbrellas ready during overcast days.
  44. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    I have been to a few funerals in which there were chairs set up by the gravesite.

    I think it might be more common in Jewish tradition, in which a certain prayer (I believe it's called the Kadish) is said at the graveside. Also, at each Jewish funeral I have attended there has been a mound of dirt and a shovel next to the grave. After the coffin is lowered into the grave, people line up to scoop some of the dirt onto the top of the coffin. I've been told that this tradition signifies the last thing one can do for the deceased without asking for something in return (i.e., the last unselfish act you can perform for the deceased).
  45. BAS24 Senior Member

    USA English
    In my part of the country, funerals will occur in the chapel of the funeral home or a church. Everyone is seated and it is more of a formal service. Then everyone goes to the graveside by way of funeral procession. It is still common practice for traffic going in the opposite direction to stop and put on their hazard lights to show respect. Once at the graveside, there are usually five or six chairs for the family or very frail. Everyone else is expected to stand. The chairs are almost always present, but people don't always use them. I've never seen a graveside where everyone is seated. The grave-diggers usually wait until after the family leaves before lowering the casket into the grave...though not always.
  46. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    Consider too that the filmmakers may have wanted to seat certain mourners and leave others standing so as to provide a visual differentiation between the two groups. Likely we're intended to concentrate on one group and the rest are just there to 'dress the set.'
  47. bb008

    bb008 Senior Member

    Caracas - Venezuela

    En Venezuela hay un dicho que dice "el muerto al hoyo y el vivo al bollo", así que los funerales aquí son de lo más normalitos...Se muere alguien lo llevan a una funeraria lo velan una noche y lo entierran al día siguiente.

    Hubo una época y sobre todo cuando no existían las funerarias que las personas velaban el muerto en su casa, eso se estilaba mucho, a veces por que en el sitio donde estabas no había funeraria o simplemente no lo podías pagar, entonces las personas compraban o mandaban hacer un ataud, a velar el muerto y punto.

    Ahora hay incluso cementerios que tiene de una vez una sala velatoria, para que lo lleves directo y el traslado para enterrar se hace más fácil, por que las funerarias en Venezuela son locales, con capillitas donde colocan el ataud (eso también depende de la religión, muchas tiene depende del difunto o de que religión era el difunto y los familiares que imagino acondicionan un lugar, pero no voy ahondar en eso, no quiero ofender a nadie) y debes trasladarlo de la funeraria al cementerio y eso por supuesto puede incrementar los costo, yo pienso más en la facilidad del entierro, que el precio, por que en serio ya casi morirse es un lujo. También en los mismos cementerios están los crematorios, y los nichos que son los que están dentro de una pared, que en vez del suelo están dentro de paredes, creo que esto es mundial.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2008
  48. Adolfo Afogutu

    Adolfo Afogutu Senior Member

    I would like to ask something about funerals in America that has always caught my attention. How common is to host a gathering after the funeral? I mean eating and drinking at the family’s home of the deceased. I can’t remember now any film in particular, but I’ve seen this scene so many times… As far as I know this is not usual in my country, but I guess it’s something good and very helpful for the family.

  49. BAS24 Senior Member

    USA English
    Where I live the person's church prepares food for the family to have during the visitation/viewing of the body and then again at the home of the family. Many times the family members have traveled great distances to be there and so they have a gathering to eat, visit, and remember the deceased. Typically the ones who attend the gathering are family or close friends of the family as well as church leaders (ministers, elders, etc.). This custom has been very helpful to me during times of loss.
  50. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    This is very common, in my experience. Usually it's at the home of the deceased or the home of a close relative.

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