Burial and funeral customs are the methods and ceremonies used in the disposing
of bodies of dead persons. People have always had a deep reverence for the dead.
The funeral ceremonies they have adopted have grown out of their views on death
and the after life. The most common methods of disposing of bodies are;
interment (burial) and cremation (burning). Other forms of disposition include:
mummification, bequeathing of the body, direct disposition, cryogenics, and
various forms of natural decomposition. Many practices are based upon religious
beliefs, and may directly effect the disposition choice.
Disposal of the Dead
Burial, the method most common in Western countries, is usually in a grave in a
cemetery plot. Sometimes burial is in a vault, or chamber. There are burial vaults
in some churches, and some cemeteries have buildings (often called mausoleums)
containing vaults. Burial may also be in a stone coffin, or sarcophagus, which
serves as a monument to the dead. Graves, burial vaults, and burial monuments are
all called tombs.
In Western countries the body is usually placed in the grave on its back, with the
legs fully extended. Moslems are buried in the right side, facing holy Mecca. When
Buddhists use burial they put the head to the north with the face upward, as
Buddha was buried.
Early Christians adopted the custom of putting the feet toward the east so that at
the resurrection the reborn might hurry toward the sunrise. Many primitive peoples
buried their dead in the fetal position, with knees drawn up toward the chin. There
was a belief that death is related to birth, and that the body in the grave is awaiting
In former times almost every cemetery had elaborate and impressive tombstones.
Now the trend is toward the simple, and often the stone is merely a marker.
This main topic focuses on all subjects, but not
limited to, topics dealing with modern funeral
traditions and customs from the U.S., and
abroad. It also covers, funeral etiquette,
disposition options, Religious rites, wakes,
vigils, traditional funeral alternatives, as well
as, mourning and grieving practices. It also
includes pallbearers, eulogies, processions,
obituaries and more.
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|A funeral usually consists of a religious service followed by a procession to the
cemetery or crematory. A brief service usually takes place as the body is buried
or cremated. Most funeral services as held in chapels, mortuaries (funeral homes),
or in churches. An undertaker or mortician acts as the funeral director. They
embalm the body to preserve it until burial or cremation, usually about 3 days
after death, often longer for prominent
persons. They obtain burial permit and
supply the hearse, flowers, cars, and
usually the coffin or casket.
Relatives and friends come to the
chapel or funeral home to pay their
respects to the dead and to comfort the
bereaved. Wearing black is as sign of
mourning is common. In some religious
groups, special prayers are offered for
the welfare of the soul of the deceased.
Muslims bury their dead as soon as possible. The body is buried with face facing
towards the holy city of Mecca. (Saudi Arabia) Signs of grief are discouraged, for
Muslims believe they should accept the will of God without murmur.
Hindus in India perfume the corpse and adorn it with flowers. They then burn it,
and later throw the ashes in the Ganges River.
Primitive peoples have followed a wide variety of funeral practices. The Dyaks of
Borneo, and some tribes of Africa once practiced head hunting to provide slaves
for souls in the next world. Some African tribes sacrificed wives, slaves, and cattle
of the dead chief so that their spirits might continue to serve them.
Burial at Sea was once a common practice in the west. Now most ships have the
means to preserve bodies until land is reached. However, various forms of water
burials are used by some South Pacific peoples.
(See: Alternative Funerals)
|Funeral Customs & Traditions
|Ways of Disposing of the Dead
|Other Methods of Disposal
|Additional Funeral Tradition Information
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