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Common Christian Funeral Traditions

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29Oct 2021

Common Christian Funeral Traditions

Christian Funeral Traditions and Etiquette

Christians believe that our lives do not end when we die and that people have souls that pass to an afterlife once our bodies have died. The belief in an afterlife contributes to many of the customs and traditions of a Christian funeral, from contacting florists for wreaths and floral tributes to be displayed at the service, to the prayers and readings that are said. Discover common Christian funeral traditions and learn the importance of these traditions to the family and friends of the deceased.

Preparation of the body

When a person dies, they are usually embalmed and prepared to be seen by family and friends. This preparation can include ensuring the body is clean, and that they are dressed in appropriate clothing. The clothing will often be described as being the person’s best clothing, or even newly purchased clothing specifically for the funeral.

The wake

In many Christian cultures, the body will be displayed in the casket the day before the funeral. This can take place at the family home or the funeral home. Friends and relations are invited to attend the wake and enjoy food and beverages while reminiscing about the deceased. This is rather less formal than the funeral and although sombre, is also a time to celebrate the life of the deceased.

The funeral service

On the morning of the funeral, there may be a procession of cars following the hearse, and the route to the church can include places and landmarks frequented by the deceased. The priest or minister will enter the church first, and it is customary wherever possible for the male members of the family to carry the coffin into the church. A funeral spray will usually be placed on the coffin as it rests before the altar. The family will have organised flowers for the service from their local florist. It is not appropriate for mourners to bring flowers to the service itself, and flower arrangements should be sent to the funeral home or the family home before the service takes place. To ensure your flowers arrive in good time for the service, consider sending flowers by post, or take advantage of same day flower delivery or next day flower delivery services from your local or online florist. If a Catholic funeral is take place, there is usually a full Mass with readings and prayers read by both the Priest and family members. At a Christian funeral service, the minister or Priest will reflect on the life of the deceased having gathered information from the family before the funeral.

At the graveside

Following the service, the priest will exit the church first before the coffin is again carried out of the church. The coffin will be placed in the hearse, and mourners will follow the hearse in their cars to the cemetery. The priest will say prayers at the graveside, and a brief service will occur. It is customary for the family to give each mourner in attendance a flower to throw into the grave once the coffin has been lowered. The family will do this first before the mourners are invited to do the same. A wreath or other flowers may be placed on the coffin before it is lowered. Sometimes items of meaning or that represent the deceased will also be placed in the grave. Once the brief service has finished people can stay to pay their respect for a little while before leaving for the venue where the funeral reception is held.

The funeral reception

Following the funeral, mourners will be invited to attend a funeral reception where family and friends gather to celebrate the life of the deceased. This may take place at a pub or bar, or another venue where food and beverages will be supplied.