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Funeral practices/cultural influences

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by jonmagee, Nov 15, 2002.

  1. jonmagee

    jonmagee New Member

    Oct 12, 2002
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    I have noticed that within differing sub-cultures within the same country practices etc. can vary.
    e.g. some feel it is important for the family to Carry/lower thecoffin while others feel the need for this to be carried out by "the professionals". some families will go in procession with the coffin to the church, have a short private family service and leave the coffin in the church over night whilst other areas assume this is a catholic practice only.
    Some practices have also altered from one generation to another.

    I don't see this as a question to which is right/wrong for I'm sure they all meet a specific need for specific people. However, in your locality what customs are applied to give some symbolic means of reaching out for comfort?

    yours, Jon.
  2. Jeff Weaver

    Jeff Weaver New Member

    Oct 10, 2001
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    I am from Southern Appalacia, and in many respects our culture is that of 18th century Britian (in all its many constituent parts). Funerary customs vary by location, family, faith, and local law, so there is no one right answer here either.

    The general practice is something like this:

    The morning after the death, the family will visit the undertaker to finalize funerary arrangements.

    The night of the death, or the next night, if the time of death warrants, would be that a wake would be held at the home of the widow(er), or in the home of a child or other near relative. Usually this happens from just before supper time (5 pm. or so) until about 10 p.m. Neighbors will bring in food for the folks who will be happening by. Often times their will be a short sermon by a minister in the home, or on the lawn if the weather is warm enough and there is a sufficient crowd.

    The next day a perod of visitation will be held at the funeral home, the church or in some cases in the person's home, The casket is generally open. The family will stand/sit near the casket and receive a line of people who come to pay their respects.

    On the third day, a formal funeral service is generally held. This used to be almost exclusively held in a church building, but increasingly it is done in an undertaker's establishment. Then to the cemetery, and a brief committment ceremony, and burial. Grandsons/nephews are generally pall-bearers. Some families will then dismiss the undertaker and bury their kin themselves, Others depart and let the undertaker do it.

    Seems like I have lost a lot of relatives this year,
  3. Jim1999

    Jim1999 <img src =/Jim1999.jpg>

    Aug 10, 2002
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    I have conducted funerals in 4 provinces and in the UK. I must say that each area does have its own traditions.

    In Western Canada, the funerals were held in the church. The casket was held in the local church for three days. On the third day was the burial. The service was immediately prior to the burial in the church followed by a brief graveside commital. This was mainly because of the small size of the communities in Saskatchewan,,,,,a small village every five miles and a larger town a distance away.

    In Quebec, the minister beame a civil servant and filed a monthly report with the government, for which he was paid a fee for each submission; wedding, funerals and births (they referred to infant baptisms, but Baptists recorded births)
    The funeral services were generally routine.

    Ontario varied by area. In some areas a wake was held in a home. This was an informal meeting with lunch and drinks. Some called the wake the regular "viewing" at the funeral chapel, where they hold regular visiting hours,,afternoon and evening. Chapel serve and graveside commital. The funeral procession generally is by car, following the hearst and family limo to the graveyard.

    Increasingly there are more cremations. This is immediate and a service may or may not be held, depending on the family and their wishes.

    I need not give the UK, as you are very familiar with it.


  4. SaggyWoman

    SaggyWoman Active Member

    Dec 15, 2000
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    When I lived in Oklahoma, the funeral WAS the visitation. Sometimes, they opened the funeral home to view the body early, but the family wasn't there.

    In NC, culture has it that if you can make it to the visitation, you don't "have" to go to the funeral.
  5. Bible-boy

    Bible-boy New Member

    Sep 1, 2002
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    I just attended a funeral for one of my wife's relatives in Tidewater Virginia. That part of her family is Roman Catholic. This was the first RC funeral that I have ever seen. I found it very strange.

    They brought the casket into the church. The preist started the Mass. As they went through the porcessional they stopped at the baptismal fount and "sprinkled" the casket. The priest said, "We sprinkle the casket because it reminds us of our baptism, which saves us." At that I drew in a sharp breath. Then they rolled the casket up to the front of the church. Priest talked about death and the afterlife in heaven. Then he tried to be specific about the life of my wife's great aunt. It was clear that he did not know her from Adam. Then he said the "magic words" over the communion elements and held the plate of bread and cup of wine up and said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Again I sucked in a sharp breath. This time my wife glanced over at me. It was very strange to watch the Roman Catholics who were present line up and take communion on either side of the casket. Then the service was over and we all drove to a cemetary where another priest from another RC church gave a short message on death and the afterlife. Then he pulled out a small bottle of "Holy Water" and invited the family and friends to squirt some on the casket. The sad thing was that both priests had the perfect chance to present the Gospel and neither one did. My wife and I and my mother=in-law tried to witness as best we could but we were not as effective as a solid presentation of the Gospel would have been.

    [ November 16, 2002, 07:07 AM: Message edited by: BibleboyII ]
  6. Tony F

    Tony F New Member

    Nov 7, 2002
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    I was reading Bibleboy's account of his first RCC funeral. Being a lone Christian in a huge Catholic family I have attended more than my fair share of RCC funerals. Bibleboy's description was accurate for sure.

    I'll add a few other things: Catholics usually bring "Mass Cards" to the wake or funeral. These cards are bought through the Church or a Church society and are a purchase of perpetual masses said in the deceased persons name, in order to pray them into Heaven. Hmmmmmm sounds like an indulgence to me.

    Also, you may see these little 3x5 cards that will have the deceased persons name on them along with a prayer or poem. On the flip side they have a picture of a saint or Mary. I remember recently seeing one of my cousins flipping through the different cards so she could get one with her "favorite saint" on it. Reminded me of kids collecting baseball cards. "Hey, I'll trade you my St. Anthony for your St. Joseph"

    One thing though that is key. At the Catholic funerals most people are very saddened, lots of crying, mourning, etc. It's a very gloomy setting. But at the Christian funerals I have attended while there is a sadness for the loss of the person there is also a different tone in that the people attending know that their loved one is now in Heaven. Most of the Christian funerals I have been too, include a time of testimony celebrating that persons life and any ministry work they had done. It is truly a fitting way to say goodbye to a brother/sister in Christ.
  7. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob Administrator

    Jun 30, 2000
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    Wyoming has very different culture about funerals than the Midwest. There the prevailing Catholic/Lutheran was a couple nights of visitation, with everyone there and almost a party atmosphere.

    Then the funeral was a in/out basic service. Family had already spent time together and with all the extended family and friends.

    Here in Wyoming there is NO visitation. And no contact with family before service. They come in after everyone else. But they stand at the door (like a preacher after the sermon) and greet everyone going out the door.