Faiths & Traditions
If you are planning a service, there are some things you need to know. We’ve helped thousands of families arrange a funeral service that satisfies both their need for a personal tribute and a service that incorporates the tenets of their faith tradition.
As with many religions, Protestant families may adhere to time-honored customs or choose a contemporary path. Traditionally, Protestant funeral services include one or two days for the family to receive friends during a visitation (the casket may be opened or closed) with a funeral service and earth burial on the second or third day. The visitation time and the funeral service may take place at either the church or the funeral home. The content and length of the funeral service is decided by the minister and the family. The committal service is typically brief, with a short scripture reading and a prayer concluding the service.
If a more modern style of service is preferred, a family may want a condensed visitation on the same day as the funeral service, or none at all. And since there is no religious prohibition, a family may choose cremation and scatter the cremated remains over land or water, bury them in a cemetery or on their own property, or retain them in a permanent memorial at home.
It is a family’s decision regarding the type of service an individual of Catholic faith is to have. Traditionally, a Catholic funeral service has included one or two days of visitation (with the casket opened or closed), and a fifteen to twenty minute Rosary or Christian Prayer Service on the evening before the funeral service. A Mass of Christian Burial is usually held at the parish church, although occasionally, a family may choose to have a funeral service only at the funeral home or gravesite. The Funeral Mass follows an established format and includes scripture readings, prayers, a eulogy and Communion. It usually lasts about 45 minutes. During the service, the casket is covered with a pall and flowers may or may not be allowed in the sanctuary. The casket is blessed with incense and Holy Water before the recessional.
The committal service at the cemetery includes prayers, scripture readings and one final blessing of the casket. Today, cremation is an acceptable for Catholics as long as (a) it is not done to deny the Resurrection, (b) the cremated remains are placed in a “worthy vessel” (urn), and (c) there are no plans to scatter the cremated remains. The acceptance of cremation varies from region to region and church to church, so it is best to check with your priest before settling on burial or cremation.
Just as there are distinctions between Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed traditions in everyday life, there are distinctions in the way each honors their family members. An Orthodox Jew who has died is bathed and dressed by the Chevra Kadisha (a group of male or female washers, depending on the sex of the deceased) and dressed in a white burial shroud, known as a “Tachrichim.” After the “Tahara” (the ritual washing done by the Chevra), the individual is positioned in a casket made completely out of wood (with bag of Israeli earth is tucked inside). A Shomrim may sit with the body until burial, reading and reciting prayers; the funeral is usually held at the funeral home or graveside (on any day but the Sabbath), though it may occasionally be held at the synagogue.
The Rabbi, assisted by the Cantor, leads the short funeral service. No music or flowers are present; men wear yarmulkes, some wear a prayer shawl called the tallith. Prior to the funeral service, the family participates in the K’ria ceremony – the custom of tearing one’s clothing to symbolize one’s grief. Today, many families wear K’ria ribbons to tear in lieu of clothing; these ribbons are worn for the 30 day mourning period known as Shloshim. Orthodox Jews prefer to be buried within 24 hours of death and earth burial is the primary mode of disposition.
If a family is of the Conservative or Reformed faith, they may choose to adhere to all, some or none of the Orthodox traditions and may even choose cremation. After the funeral, the family observes several periods of mourning, beginning with the seven day Shiva. The Jewish sense of community is characterized by their focus on their duty to assist the family not only through the burial, but also through the family’s recovery as they adjust to their loss.
After a person of Orthodox faith has died, they are transferred to the funeral home and prepared for a visitation. Depending on the nationality of the Orthodox Church to which the member belonged, embalming may or may not be done. A visitation may be done at the funeral home or the church, but the family’s priest is customarily present for the first viewing and a prayer is offered at this time. The Trisagion, a series of three prayers, are usually offered at the conclusion of the visitation.
The funeral service (called the “Parastas” or “Great Panachida”) may be held on any day but Sunday, and is held at church. During the first part of the Parastas, the casket remains closed immediately in front of the altar. During the funeral, the casket may be turned and opened and the family and friends file past the casket, kissing the Icon. Orthodox Christians generally prohibit cremation, and do not allow church funerals for anyone who will be cremated. They are mindful of their belief that the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, therefore, the deliberate destruction of the body is prohibited.
As with all religious rites, the Buddhist ceremonies and rituals vary from region to region, but most Buddhist families in the Metropolitan area frequently choose the same type of service. When a Buddhist person passes away, they are brought to the funeral home and prepared for an open casket visitation. After their body has been embalmed, the individual is dressed in clothing chosen by the family, and placed in either a wood or metal casket (in our area, wood is most frequently preferred) surrounded by personal articles chosen by the family.
A visitation may take place a day before or the same day as the funeral service. The casket is usually open for both the visitation and the funeral service and is held at the funeral home. The Buddhist Monk will choose a member of the family, commonly the eldest male, to assist in conducting the ritual. While the relatives and friends chant, a gong-like bell sounds and a meal of rice, peas and carrots is prepared for the deceased, and incense is burned. Paper money may be set on fire, along with articles of clothing and personal effects. When burial is chosen for disposition, the committal service usually lasts about 30 minutes. If cremation is preferred, many families choose to accompany the body to the crematory.
When someone of Hindu faith dies, their belief is the death is only a transition from one physical life to the next. Cremation is very much a part of the Hindu custom, and is often chosen by families living in the United States. Typically, the person who died is transferred to the funeral home, washed and dressed in clothing provided by the family, and a short visitation may or may not be held. A Hindu priest leads the funeral service, usually at the funeral home, and leads the prayers and chants. The family takes an active role in the service, assisting the Priest or pallbearers, and leads or carries the body to the place of final disposition. When disposition is cremation, family members often place the body in the cremation chamber and initiate the cremation.
After a person of Muslim faith has died, they are brought to the funeral home where a ritual washing (known as a “Ghusl”) is performed. This washing is done by volunteers from the mosque or Muslim community. Men washers perform the ritual on men, and women perform the ritual on women. The body is then wrapped in material so that only the face and hands are visible when completed. The body is placed in the simplest casket available.
If a visitation is held, it is typically about an hour and the casket is open. Most Muslim funerals are conducted at the gravesite, though some families choose to have prayers at the mosque or funeral home. They may be conducted by an Islamic scholar or Imam. Funerals may be held on any day except a Holy Day. The casket is always carried by the male members of the family and is placed for the service with the head facing east. All public prayers to Allah are done only by men.
At the conclusion of the committal service at the cemetery, the casket is lowered. If burial is in a commercial cemetery, a grave liner will probably be required. In this case, the casket lid is often removed and dirt place inside the casket. Men are instructed to mourn for three days, women for four months and ten days.
In many Hispanic cultures, death is considered to be the journey of the soul’s return home. Advent Funeral Services helps hundreds of families each year see the safe return of their friends and relatives to their home countries the world over — including Latin America, Mexico, South America and the Philippines.
Families from these cultures begin the funeral process with the Last Rites. Last Rites are given by a priest or minister who also offers spiritual assistance in planning the funeral. Favorite clothing items, images of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Guadalupe), photos and mementos are included in the casket to assist the person who died on their journey home. The viewing (or visitation) is a time when the family sits with the casket to watch over them and offer prayers.
The funeral, usually the day after the viewing, is a time for family and friends to say goodbye. In many Hispanic and Latin American cultures, burial starts a new phase of life in which the person who has passed can help those who are still on Earth. Although families know their loved ones’ bodies have died, they rejoice in knowing their spirits live on. They pray to them, talk to them, and turn to them for support and guidance.