How different religions dictate different funeral practices
Demonstrating proper funeral etiquette is important to avoid dishonouring the deceased’s memory or offending the family members in mourning. However, mourning rituals and funeral practices vary depending on religion, ethnicity and culture. What is customary to members of one faith may be viewed as inappropriate by members of another. Here’s a brief overview of different funeral customs by religion to help ensure you follow the right protocol when paying your respects.
Catholic funerals emphasize the afterlife and celebrate the deceased through heartfelt eulogies. Sombre flower arrangements or charitable donations made in the deceased’s name are considered fitting gifts. Before the burial (or cremation), Catholics hold a wake where friends and family gather to view the body and whisper a private prayer. The funeral mass that follows is performed in a Catholic church by a priest who delivers the last rites and prepares the soul for death. It’s customary for guests to light a candle in honour of the departed. The final resting place of the deceased’s body or ashes is then blessed by a priest for safe passage into the afterlife.
Jewish funerals are short services that involve deep mourning rituals. The service is performed by a rabbi and the burial takes place within 24 hours of death (cremation is forbidden). Funeral attire consists of dark-coloured clothing, and sending flowers is considered poor funeral etiquette. After the burial, the immediate family is confined to the home for seven days of mourning. During this period known as “Shiva,” it is customary for family, friends and coworkers to stop by and offer their condolences. Food baskets filled with desserts, fruit and Kosher foods are traditionally taken to the home as a show of respect.
Contrary to other religions, death is not mourned as intensely in Hindu circles since it is not viewed as the end of one’s life. Rather, Hindus believe that the soul (or “atman”) continuously occupies different bodies. The funeral service is conducted by a Hindu priest. Mourners dress in modest white clothes and arrive empty-handed (flowers and gifts are considered inappropriate). The body is cremated one day after death followed by a 13-day mourning period. It is believed that lamenting the dead too long compromises the soul’s new journey.
Like Hindus, Buddhists believe in reincarnation. During the wake, candles and incense burn until the body is transported to the cemetery or crematorium. It is customary to send white flowers (the traditional colour of mourning in Buddhist culture) or provide a financial donation to a designated charity. White is worn by the grieving family, while friends and other guests wear black. Similar to Catholic funerals, Buddhist ceremonies take place at a funeral home and include eulogies and prayers; however, guests are also expected to partake in meditation circles.
The Islamic religion also prescribes a specific period for mourning. Family and friends of the deceased mourn for three days whereas widows are expected to mourn for approximately four months. Like the Judaic tradition, Islamic funerals emphasize simplicity and discourage the gift of flowers; however, palms and other green varieties of plants often decorate the deceased’s grave.
Although funeral customs vary from one religion to the next, they ultimately achieve the same thing: honouring the life of a deceased loved one. At Mount Pleasant Group, we respect every family’s wishes and do our utmost to provide a beautiful funeral that reflects the customs and traditions common to their faith. With 10 cemeteries, nine funeral homes and four crematoriums to choose from in and around the Brampton and Toronto areas, Mount Pleasant Group is fully equipped to provide tailored funeral, burial or cremation services, according to families’ distinct mourning practices.
Whether you want to inquire about a service or make arrangements for someone you love who recently passed away, don’t hesitate to get in touch.