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A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a deceased person. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from the funeral itself, to various monuments, prayers and rituals undertaken in their honour. These customs vary widely between cultures, and between religious affiliations within cultures. In some cultures the dead are venerated; this is commonly called ancestor worship. The word funeral comes from the Latin funus, which had a variety of meanings, including the corpse and the funerary rites themselves.

Funeral rites are as old as the human culture itself, predating modern homo sapiens, to at least 300,000 years ago. For example, in the Shanidar cave in Iraq, in Pontnewydd Cave in Wales and other sites across Europe and the Near East,Neanderthal skeletons have been discovered with a characteristic layer of pollen, which suggests that Neanderthals buried the dead with gifts of flowers. This has been interpreted as suggesting that Neanderthals believed in an afterlife.


At the visitation (also called a "viewing" ,"wake" or "calling hours") the body of the deceased person (or decedent) is placed on display in the casket (also called a coffin, however almost all body containers are caskets). The viewing often takes place on one or two evenings before the funeral. The body is traditionally dressed in the decedent's best clothes. In recent times there has been more variation in what the decedent is dressed in - some people choose to be dressed in clothing more reflective of how they dressed in life. The body will often be adorned with common jewellery, such as watches, necklaces, brooches, etc. The jewellery may be taken off and given to the family of the deceased or remain in the casket after burial. Jewellery will most likely be removed before cremation. The body may or may not be embalmed, depending upon such factors as the amount of time since the death has occurred, religious practices, or requirements of the place of burial but in general embalming is preferable.

The most commonly prescribed aspects of this gathering are that the attendees sign a book kept by the deceased's survivors to record who attended. In addition, a family may choose to display photographs taken of the deceased person during his/her life (often, formal portraits with other family members and candid pictures to show "happy times"), prized possessions and other items representing his/her hobbies and/or accomplishments. A more recent trend is to create a DVD with pictures and video of the deceased, accompanied by music, and play this DVD continuously during the visitation.

The viewing is either "open casket", in which the embalmed body of the deceased has been clothed and treated with cosmetics for display; or "closed casket", in which the coffin is closed.


A memorial service, often called a funeral, is often officiated by clergy from the decedent's, or bereaved's, church or religion. A funeral may take place at either a funeral home or church. A funeral is held according to the family's choosing which may be a few days after the time of death, allowing family members to attend the service.

The deceased is usually transported from the funeral home to a church in a hearse, a specialised vehicle designed to carry casketed remains. The deceased is often transported in a procession (also called a funeral cortège), with the hearse, funeral service vehicles, and private auto mobiles travelling in a procession to the church or other location where the services will be held. In a number of jurisdictions, special laws cover funeral processions - such as requiring other vehicles to give right-of-way to a funeral procession. Funeral service vehicles may be equipped with light bars and special flashers to increase their visibility on the roads. They may also all have their headlights on, to identify which vehicles are part of the cortège, although the practice also has roots in ancient Roman customs.[6] After the funeral service, if the deceased is to be buried the funeral procession will proceed to a cemetery if not already there. If the deceased is to be cremated the funeral procession may then proceed to the crematory.

Funeral services commonly include prayers; readings from the Bible or other sacred texts; hymns (sung either by the attendees or a hired vocalist); and words of comfort by the clergy. Frequently, a relative or close friend will be asked to give a eulogy, which details happy memories and accomplishments; often commenting on the deceased's flaws, especially at length, is considered impolite. Sometimes the delivering of the eulogy is done by the clergy. Clergy are often asked to deliver eulogies for people they have never met. Church bells may also be tolled both before and after the service.

Tradition[citation needed] also allows the attendees of the memorial service to have one last opportunity to view the deceased and say good-bye; the immediate family (siblings (and their spouses); followed by the deceased's spouse, parents and children) are sometimes the very last to view their loved one before the coffin is closed. This opportunity can take place immediately before the service begins, or at the very end of the service.

During the funeral and at the burial service, the casket may be covered with a large arrangement of flowers, called a casket spray.

Funeral customs vary from country to country.

Burial Funeral service

A burial service, conducted at the side of the grave, tomb, mausoleum or cremation, at which the body of the decedent is buried or cremated at the conclusion.

Sometimes, the burial service will immediately follow the funeral, in which case a funeral procession travels from the site of the memorial service to the burial site. Other times, the burial service takes place at a later time, when the final resting place is ready.

If the descendent served in a branch of the Armed forces,military rights are often accorded at the burial service.

In many religious traditions, pallbearers, males who are close, but not immediate relatives (such as cousins, nephews or grandchildren) or friends of the descendent, will carry the casket from the chapel (of a funeral home or church) to the hearse, and from the hearse to the site of the burial service. The pallbearers often sit in a special reserved section during the memorial service.

According to most religions, coffins are kept closed during the burial ceremony. In Eastern Orthodox funerals, the coffins are reopened just before burial to allow loved ones to look at the deceased one last time and give their final farewells. Greek funerals are an exception as the coffin is open during the whole procedure unless the state of the body does not allow it.

The morticians will typically ensure that all jewellery, including wristwatch, that were displayed at the wake are in the casket before it is buried or entombed. Custom requires that everything goes into the ground; however this is not true for Jewish services. Jewish tradition is that nothing of value is buried with the deceased.

There is an exception, in the case of cremation. Such items tend to melt or suffer damage, so they are usually removed before the body goes into the furnace. Pacemakers are removed prior to cremation - if they were left in they could possibly explode and damage the crematorium.

Funeral Luncheon

In many traditions, a meal or other gathering often follows the burial service, also called a repast. This gathering may be held at the deceased's church or another off-site location. Some funeral homes have large spaces set aside to provide funeral dinners.[citation needed]

Private services

On occasion, the family of the deceased may wish to have only a very small service, with just the deceased's closest family members and friends attending. This type of ceremony means it is closed to the public. One may only go to the funeral if one is invited. In this case, a private funeral service is conducted. Reasons vary but often include the following:

  • The deceased was an infant (possibly, they may have been stillborn) or very aged, and therefore has few surviving family members or friends.

  • The deceased may be a crime victim or a convicted criminal who was serving a prison sentence or executed. In this case, the service is made private either to avoid unwanted media coverage (especially with a crime victim); or to avoid unwanted intrusion (especially if the deceased was convicted of murder or sexual assault).

  • The family does not feel able to endure a traditional service (due to emotional shock) or simply wants a quiet, simple funeral with only the most important people of the deceased's life in attendance.

  • The family and/or the deceased, as more frequently preplanned, prefer simplicity and lower cost to that of traditional arrangements. The choice of cremation as an option to casketed burial is increasing and often includes disposition of the cremains at a time privately convenient to the deceased's family members.

  • The deceased is of a distinct celebrity status, and holding public ceremony would result in too many guests who are not acquainted with the deceased to participate. On the other hand, if a state funeral is offered and accepted by the deceased's immediate family, a public funeral would ensue.

Funeral Memorial services

The memorial service is a service given for the deceased without the body present. This may take place after an earth burial, donation of the body to an institution such as a school, cremation (sometimes the remains are present), entombment, or burial at sea. Typically these services take place at the funeral home and may include prayers, poems, or songs to remember the deceased. Pictures of the deceased are usually placed at the altar where the body would normally be.

The above information has been sourced from Wikipedia. Please visit the following link to site authors and view the original document and references

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