Funeral
Overview
A funeral is a ceremony
Ceremony
A ceremony is an event of ritual significance, performed on a special occasion. The word may be of Etruscan origin.-Ceremonial occasions:A ceremony may mark a rite of passage in a human life, marking the significance of, for example:* birth...

 for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers
Prayers
is an anime set in the year 2014 where the young of Japan have rebelled against the government for segregating Shibuya and declared themselves to be independent of Japan...

, and rituals undertaken in their honor. These customs vary widely between cultures, and between religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 affiliations within cultures. The word funeral comes from the Latin funus, which had a variety of meanings, including the corpse and the funerary rites themselves.
Encyclopedia
A funeral is a ceremony
Ceremony
A ceremony is an event of ritual significance, performed on a special occasion. The word may be of Etruscan origin.-Ceremonial occasions:A ceremony may mark a rite of passage in a human life, marking the significance of, for example:* birth...

 for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers
Prayers
is an anime set in the year 2014 where the young of Japan have rebelled against the government for segregating Shibuya and declared themselves to be independent of Japan...

, and rituals undertaken in their honor. These customs vary widely between cultures, and between religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 affiliations within cultures. The word funeral comes from the Latin funus, which had a variety of meanings, including the corpse and the funerary rites themselves. Funerary art
Funerary art
Funerary art is any work of art forming, or placed in, a repository for the remains of the dead. Tomb is a general term for the repository, while grave goods are objects—other than the primary human remains—which have been placed inside...

 is art produced in connection with burials, including many kinds of tomb
Tomb
A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes...

s, and objects specially made for burial with a corpse.

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 flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

 pollen
Pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

. This has been interpreted as suggesting that Neanderthals believed in an afterlife, although the evidence is not unequivocal – while the dead were apparently indeed buried deliberately, the flowers might have been introduced by burrowing rodents.

Hindu funerals

Antyesti
Antyesti
Antyesti or Hindu funeral rites, also referred to as Antim Sanskar, is an important Sanskara, sacrament of Hindu society. Extensive texts of such rites are available, particularly in the Garuda Purana. There is wide inconsistency in theory and practice, and the procedures differ from place to place...

 or Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 funeral rites, sometimes referred as Antim Sanskar, is an important Sanskara, sacrament
Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

 of Hindu society. Extensive texts of such rites are available, particularly in the Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana is one of the Puranas which are part of the Hindu body of texts known as smriti. It is a Vaishnava Purana and its first part contains a dialog between Vishnu and Garuda, the King of Birds...

.

Sikh funerals

In Sikhism death is considered a natural process, an event that has absolute certainty and only happens as a direct result of God's Will or Hukam. To a Sikh, birth and death are closely associated, because they are both part of the cycle of human life of "coming and going" ( ਆਵਣੁ ਜਾਣਾ, Aana Jaana) which is seen as transient stage towards Liberation ( ਮੋਖੁ ਦੁਆਰੁ, Mokh Du-aar), complete unity with God. Sikhs thus believe in reincarnation.

However, by contrast, the soul itself is not subject to the cycle of birth and death. Death is only the progression of the soul on its journey from God, through the created universe and back to God again. In life, a Sikh always tries to constantly remember death so that he or she may be sufficiently prayerful, detached and righteous to break the cycle of birth and death and return to God.

The public display of grief at the funeral or Antam Sanskar as it is called in the Sikh culture, such as wailing or crying out loud is discouraged and should be kept to a minimum. Cremation is the preferred method of disposal, although if this is not possible any other methods such as burial or submergence at sea are acceptable. Worship of the dead with gravestones, etc. is discouraged, because the body is considered to be only the shell and the person's soul is their real essence.

On the day of the cremation, the body is taken to the Gurdwara or home where hymns (Shabads) from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scriptures are recited by the congregation, which induce feeling of consolation and courage. Kirtan may also be performed by Ragis while the relatives of the deceased recite "Waheguru" sitting near the coffin. This service normally takes from 30 to 60 minutes. At the conclusion of the service, an Ardas is said before the coffin is taken to the cremation site.

At the point of cremation, a few more Shabads may be sung and final speeches are made about the deceased person. The eldest son or a close relative generally starts the cremation process – light the fire or press the button for the burning to begin. This service usually lasts about 30 to 60 minutes.

The ashes are later collected and disposed by immersing them in the Punjab (five famous rivers in India). Sikhs do not erect monuments over the remains of the dead.

The Sidaran Paath
The ceremony in which the Sidharan Paath is begun after the cremation ceremony, may be held when convenient, wherever the Guru Granth Sahib is present:

Hymns are sung from the scripture of the Guru Granth.
The first five and final verses of "Anand Sahib," the "Song of Bliss," are recited or sung.
The first five verses of Sikhism's morning prayer, "Japji Sahib," are read aloud to begin the Sidharan paath.
A hukam, or random verse, is read from the Guru Granth.
Ardas, a prayer, is offered.
Prashad, a sacred sweet, is distributed.
Langar, a meal, is served to guests.
While the Sidharan paath is being read, the family may also sing hymns daily. Reading may take as long as needed to complete the paath.

This ceremony is followed by Sahaj Paath Bhog, Kirtan Sohila, night time prayer is recited 1 week and finally Ardas called the "Antim Ardas" ("Final Prayer") is offered the last week.

Funerals in Japan

Religious thought among the Japanese people is generally a blend of Shintō and Buddhist beliefs. In modern practice, specific rites concerning an individual's passage through life are generally ascribed to one of these two faiths. Funerals and follow-up memorial services fall under the purview of Buddhist ritual, and 90% Japanese funerals are conducted in a Buddhist manner. Aside from the religious aspect, a Japanese funeral usually includes a wake, the cremation of the deceased, and inclusion within the family grave. Follow-up services are then performed by a Buddhist priest on specific anniversaries after death.

According to one estimate made in 2005, 99.82% of all deceased Japanese are cremated. In most of these cases, the cremated remains are placed in an urn
Urn
An urn is a vase, ordinarily covered, that usually has a narrowed neck above a footed pedestal. "Knife urns" placed on pedestals flanking a dining-room sideboard were an English innovation for high-style dining rooms of the late 1760s...

 and then deposited in a family grave. In recent years however, alternative methods of burial have gained in popularity; such methods include scattering of the ashes, burial in outer space, and conversion of the cremated remains into a diamond
Diamond
In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

 that can be set in jewelry.

Traditional funerals

Within the United States and Canada, in most cultural groups and regions, the funeral rituals can be divided into three parts:
visitation, funeral, and the burial service.

Visitation

At the visitation (also called a "viewing","wake
Wake (ceremony)
A wake is a ceremony associated with death. Traditionally, a wake takes place in the house of the deceased, with the body present; however, modern wakes are often performed at a funeral home. In the United States and Canada it is synonymous with a viewing...

" or "calling hours"), in Christian or secular Western custom, 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 jewelry, such as watches, necklaces, brooches, etc. The jewelry may be taken off and given to the family of the deceased or remain in the casket after burial. Jewelry 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.http://www.nea.gov.sg/passesaway/faq.htmhttp://www.toscandinn.com.au/emb3.pdf

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. The coffin may be closed if the body was too badly damaged because of an accident or fire or other trauma, deformed from illness or if someone in the group is emotionally unable to cope with viewing the corpse. In cases such as these, a picture of the deceased, usually a formal photo, is placed atop the casket.

However, this step is foreign to Judaism; Jewish funerals are held soon after death (preferably within a day or two, unless more time is needed for relatives to come), and the corpse is never displayed. As well, Jewish law forbids anyone to embalm the body of the deceased. Traditionally flowers (and music) are not sent to a grieving Jewish family as it is a reminder of the life that is now lost.(See also Jewish bereavement.)

The decedent's closest friends and relatives who are unable to attend frequently send flowers to the viewing, with the exception of a Jewish funeral, where flowers would not be appropriate (and donations are given to a charity instead). The viewing typically takes place at a funeral home
Funeral home
A funeral home, funeral parlor or mortuary, is a business that provides burial and funeral services for the deceased and their families. These services may include aprepared wake and funeral, and the provision of a chapel for the funeral....

, which is equipped with gathering rooms where the viewing can be conducted, although the viewing may also take place at a church. In earlier history, it was common practice in some of the states in the southeastern United States that the body was taken to the decedent’s home or that of a relative for viewing. This practice continues in many areas of Ireland and Scotland. The viewing may end with a prayer service; in a Roman Catholic funeral, this may include a rosary.

A visitation is often held the evening before the day of the funeral. However, when the deceased person is elderly the visitation may be held immediately preceding the funeral. This allows elderly friends of the deceased a chance to view the body and attend the funeral in one trip, since it may be difficult for them to arrange travel; this step may also be taken if the deceased has few survivors or the survivors want a funeral with only a small number of guests.

Funeral

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.

Tradition 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.

The deceased is usually transported from the funeral home to a church in a hearse, a specialized vehicle designed to carry casketed remains. The deceased is often transported in a procession (also called a funeral cortege), with the hearse
Hearse
A hearse is a funerary vehicle used to carry a coffin from a church or funeral home to a cemetery. In the funeral trade, hearses are often called funeral coaches.-History:...

, funeral service vehicles, and private automobiles traveling 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 cortege, although the practice also has roots in ancient Roman customs. 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 a sacred text; 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
Eulogy
A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially one recently deceased or retired. Eulogies may be given as part of funeral services. However, some denominations either discourage or do not permit eulogies at services to maintain respect for traditions...

, 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.

In some religious denominations, for example, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), eulogies from loved ones are somewhat discouraged during this service, in order to preserve respect for traditions. In such cases, the eulogy is only done by a member of the clergy. This tradition is giving way to eulogies read by family members or friends in a desire to ensure that it is done, "just right." Also, for these same religions, the coffin is traditionally closed at the end of the wake and is not re-opened for the funeral service.

During the funeral and at the burial service, the casket may be covered with a large arrangement of flowers, called a casket spray. If the deceased served in a branch of the Armed forces, the casket may be covered with a national flag; however, in the US, nothing should cover the national flag according to Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1, Paragraph 8i.

Funeral customs vary from country to country. In the United States, any type of noise other than quiet whispering or mourning is considered disrespectful.

A traditional Fire Department funeral consists of two raised aerial ladders. The firefighter(s) travel under the aerials on their ride, on the fire apparatus, to the cemetery. Once there, the grave service includes the playing of bagpipes. The pipes have come to be a distinguishing feature of a fallen hero's funeral. Also a "Last Alarm Bell" is rung. A portable fire department bell is tolled at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Burial service

A burial
Burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

 service, conducted at the side of the grave, tomb
Tomb
A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes...

, mausoleum
Mausoleum
A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or persons. A monument without the interment is a cenotaph. A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb or the tomb may be considered to be within the...

 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
Funeral procession
A funeral procession is a procession, usually in motor vehicles, from a church, synagogue, or mosque to the cemetery. The deceased is usually transported in a hearse, while family and friends follow in their vehicles.- Standard procedure :...

 travels from the site of the memorial service to the burial site. In some other cases, the burial service is the funeral, in which case the procession might travel from the cemetery office to the gravesite. Other times, the burial service takes place at a later time, when the final resting place is ready.

If the decedent served in a branch of the Armed forces, military rites
Military rites
Military rites are honors presented at a funeral for a member of a military or police force. These rites, which are performed at the burial, include the firing of rifles, presenting of a flag and or bugle calls. In Australia and New Zealand a Poppy Service is often held for members of the Armed...

 are often accorded at the burial service.

In many religious traditions, pallbearer
Pallbearer
A pall-bearer is one of several funeral participants who helps carry the casket of a deceased person from a religious or memorial service or viewing either directly to a cemetery or mausoleum, or to and from the hearse which carries the coffin....

s, usually males who are close, but not immediate relatives (such as cousins, nephews or grandchildren) or friends of the decedent, 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 jewelry, 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.

Local burial traditions

Even within a single country many local areas have their own unique burial traditions. For example, funerals on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland are often followed by a traditional Lewis funeral procession which involves mourners taking turns at carrying the coffin en route to the graveyard.

Similarly burials on the Isle of Jura and parts of the Isle of Islay are often followed by whisky, cheese and biscuits at the graveside, a tradition which stems from the time when the long journey to the graveyard was taken on foot.

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.

Etiquette in different countries

Generally speaking, the number of people who are considered obliged to attend each of these three rituals by etiquette decreases at each step:
  • Distant relatives and acquaintances may be called upon to attend the visitation.
  • The decedent's closer relatives and local friends attend the funeral or memorial service, and subsequent burial (if it is held immediately after the memorial service).
  • If the burial is on the day of the funeral, only the decedent's closest relatives and friends attend the burial service (although if the burial service immediately follows the funeral, all attendees of the memorial service are asked to attend).


Traditionally etiquette dictated that the bereaved and other attendees at a funeral wear formal clothing, such as a suit and tie for men or a dress for women. The most traditional color is solid black (with a matching solid black tie for men) preferably without any underlying pinstripes or patterns in the weave. But failing that charcoal gray or dark navy blue may be worn.

Wearing short skirts, low-cut tops, t-shirts with advertising slogans or suggestive images, or, at Western funerals, a large amount of white (other than a button-down shirt or blouse, a military uniform, or in the Swedish tradition, white ties worn by male members of the immediate family) is often seen as disrespectful.

Women who are grieving the deaths of their husbands or close partners sometimes wear a veil to conceal their faces, although this practice is not presently common. Increasingly, the deceased have requested before their death that the attendees of their funeral should wear something of their favorite color or wear something specific, such as a football shirt.

A guest book may be placed in a prominent place during the viewing. It is intended to let the next of kin know who came to the funeral, so that thank-you letters can be mailed. It is not intended to be read by the funeral directors as a source of referrals, so it is not the best place for comments on the appropriateness of the funeral arrangements. Disagreements on such matters can have lasting effects and can even affect inheritances.

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
    Infant
    A newborn or baby is the very young offspring of a human or other mammal. A newborn is an infant who is within hours, days, or up to a few weeks from birth. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth...

     (possibly, they may have been stillborn
    Stillbirth
    A stillbirth occurs when a fetus has died in the uterus. The Australian definition specifies that fetal death is termed a stillbirth after 20 weeks gestation or the fetus weighs more than . Once the fetus has died the mother still has contractions and remains undelivered. The term is often used in...

    ) 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 cremated remains at a time privately convenient to the deceased's family members.
  • The deceased is of a distinct celebrity
    Celebrity
    A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

     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
    State funeral
    A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...

     is offered and accepted by the deceased's immediate family, a public funeral would ensue. A recent example of this is the death of celebrity Steve Irwin
    Steve Irwin
    Stephen Robert "Steve" Irwin , nicknamed "The Crocodile Hunter", was an Australian television personality, wildlife expert, and conservationist. Irwin achieved worldwide fame from the television series The Crocodile Hunter, an internationally broadcast wildlife documentary series which he co-hosted...

    , in which his family was offered a state funeral but refused. They held a private ceremony for Irwin on 9 September 2006.


In some cases (particularly the last), the family may schedule a public memorial service at a later time. In the case of Steve Irwin, his memorial service was held on 20 September 2006.

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.

After the sudden deaths of important public officials, public memorial services have been held by communities, including those without any other connection to the deceased. For instance, memorial services were held after the James A. Garfield assassination and the William McKinley assassination.

New Orleans Jazz Funeral

A unique funeral tradition in the United States occurs in New Orleans, Louisiana. The tradition arose from a combination of African spiritual practices, French musical traditions, and African-American cultural influences. A typical jazz funeral
Jazz funeral
Jazz funeral is a common name for a funeral tradition with music which developed in New Orleans, Louisiana.The term "jazz funeral" was long in use by observers from elsewhere, but was generally disdained as inappropriate by most New Orleans musicians and practitioners of the tradition...

 begins with a march by the family, friends, and a jazz band, starting from the home, funeral home, or church, and proceeding to the cemetery. Throughout the march, the band plays very somber dirge
Dirge
A dirge is a somber song expressing mourning or grief, such as would be appropriate for performance at a funeral. A lament. The English word "dirge" is derived from the Latin Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam , the first words of the first antiphon in the Matins of the Office...

s. Once the final ceremony has taken place, the march proceeds from the cemetery to a gathering place, and the solemn music is replaced by loud, upbeat, raucous music and dancing where onlookers join in to celebrate the life of the deceased. This is the origin of the New Orleans dance known as the "second line" where celebrants do a dance-march, frequently while raising the hats and umbrellas brought along as protection from intense New Orleans weather and waving handkerchiefs above the head that are no longer being used to wipe away tears.

“Green” funeral

Those with concerns about the effects on the environment of traditional burial or cremation may choose to be buried in a fashion more suited to their beliefs. They may choose to be buried in an all natural bio-degradable green burial shroud, sometimes a simple coffin made of cardboard or other easily-biodegradable material. Further, they may choose their final resting place to be in a park or woodland, known as an eco-cemetery, and may have a tree planted over their grave as a contribution to the environment and a remembrance.

Humanist funeral

Non-religious funerals are legal within the UK. The British Humanist Association
British Humanist Association
The British Humanist Association is an organisation of the United Kingdom which promotes Humanism and represents "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs." The BHA is committed to secularism, human rights, democracy, egalitarianism and mutual respect...

 organises a network of humanist funeral celebrants
Humanist officiant
A Humanist officiant is a person who performs secular humanist celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies, and other rituals...

 or officiants across England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, and a similar network is organised by the Humanist Society of Scotland
Humanist Society of Scotland
The Humanist Society of Scotland is a Scottish voluntary charitable organisation that promotes humanist views. It is a member of the European Humanist Federation and the International Humanist and Ethical Union.-History and aims:...

. Humanist officiants are trained and experienced in devising and conducting suitable ceremonies. Humanist funerals recognise no "after-life", but celebrate the life of the person who has died. Humanist funerals have reportedly been held in recent years for Claire Rayner
Claire Rayner
Claire Berenice Rayner OBE was an English nurse, journalist, broadcaster and novelist, best known for her role for many years as an agony aunt.-Early life:...

, Keith Floyd
Keith Floyd
Keith Floyd was a British celebrity chef, television personality and restaurateur, who hosted cooking shows for the BBC and published many books combining cookery and travel...

, Linda Smith
Linda Smith (comedian)
Linda Helen Smith was a British stand-up comic and comedy writer. She appeared regularly on Radio 4 panel games, and was voted "Wittiest Living Person" by listeners in 2002...

, and Ronnie Barker
Ronnie Barker
Ronald William George "Ronnie" Barker, OBE was a British actor, comedian, writer, critic, broadcaster and businessman...

, among others.

Internet visitation/funeral

A funeral home in North Syracuse, New York was the first to offer and broadcast a visitation and funeral "live" on the Internet. A funeral director at the home said "It's not new technology, just a new application." The use of a web-camera allows friends or relatives who could not otherwise attend services to do so from any computer. Family members and friends separated by distance, weather or circumstance can now become part of the support network by being connected electronically to the ceremonies.

Police/Fire services funerals

Funerals for fallen members of fire or police services are common in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 (namely United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

). These funerals involve honour guards from police forces and/or fire services from across the country and sometimes from overseas. The presence of outside members is regarded as a sign of respect and support from the brotherhood of fellow officers.

In the case of a fallen firefighter, the casket is often placed on top of a fire engine and draped with a flag. For both fire and police, a parade of officers often precedes or follows the hearse carrying the fallen comrade.

East Asian funerals

In most East Asian, South Asian and many Southeast Asian cultures, the wearing of white is symbolic of death. In these societies, white or off-white robes are traditionally worn to symbolize that someone has died and can be seen worn among relatives of the deceased during a funeral ceremony. In Chinese culture, red is strictly forbidden as it is a traditionally symbolic color of happiness. Exceptions are sometimes made if the deceased has reached a high age, particularly between their mid-80s to age 100. In which case, the funeral is considered a celebration, where wearing white with some red is acceptable. Contemporary Western influence however has meant that dark-colored or black attire is now often also acceptable for mourners to wear (particularly for those outside the family). In such cases, mourners wearing dark colors at times may also wear a white or off-white armband or white robe.

A traditional Chinese gift to the attendees upon entering is a white (and sometimes red) envelope, usually enclosing a small sum of money (in odd numbers, usually one dollar), a sweet, red thread, and a handkerchief, each with symbolic meaning. Chinese custom also dictates that the said sum of money should not be brought home. The sweet should be consumed the day of and anything given during the funeral must not be brought home. The exception is the red thread, which is tied to the front doorknob of the guest's house to ward off bad luck. The repetition of 3 is common where people at the funeral may brush their hair three times or spit three times before leaving the funeral to ward off bad luck. This custom is also found in other East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures.

Most Japanese funerals are conducted with Buddhist rites. Many feature a ritual that bestows a new name on the deceased; funerary names typically use obsolete or archaic kanji and words, to avoid the likelihood of the name being used in ordinary speech or writing. The new names are typically chosen by a Buddhist priest, after consulting the family of the deceased. Most Japanese are cremated.

South Korean funerals typically mix western culture with traditional Korean culture, largely depending on socio-economic status, region, and religion. In almost all cases, all related males in the family wear woven arm bands representing seniority and must grieve next to the deceased for a period of three days before burying the body. During this period of time, it is customary for the males in the family to personally greet all who come to show respect to the deceased.

West African funerals

The custom of burying the dead in the floor of dwelling-houses has been to some degree prevalent on the Gold Coast of Africa. The ceremony is purely animist, and apparently without any set ritual. The main exception is that the females of the family of the deceased and their friends may undergo mournful lamentations. In some instances they work their feelings up to an ostentatious, frenzy-like degree of sorrow. The revelry may be heightened by the use of alcohol, of which drummers, flute-players, bards, and singing men may partake. The funeral may last for as much as a week. Another custom, a kind of memorial, frequently takes place seven years after the person's death. These funerals and especially the memorials may be extremely expensive for the family in question. Cattle, sheep, goats, and poultry, may be offered involved and then consumed.

The Ashanti and Akan
Akan people
The Akan people are an ethnic group found predominately in Ghana and The Ivory Coast. Akans are the majority in both of these countries and overall have a population of over 20 million people.The Akan speak Kwa languages-Origin and ethnogenesis:...

 ethnic groups in Ghana will typically wear red and black during funerals. For special family members, there is typically a funeral celebration with singing and dancing to honor the life of the deceased. Afterwards, the Akan hold a somber funeral procession and burial with intense displays of sorrow. Other funerals in Ghana are held with the deceased put in elaborate "fantasy coffins" colored and shaped after a certain object, such as a fish, crab, boat, and even an airplane. The Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop
Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop
The Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop is a studio established in Teshie, Ghana, since the Fifties. It is known for its Design Coffins that became symbolic of African artistic creativity.- History :...

 in Teshie
Teshie
Teshie is a city in Ghana in the Greater Accra Region. Fort Augustaborg, built by the Danes in 1787, is located in Teshie and was occupied by the British from 1850 to 1957. The national Officer Cadet Training School and Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre are also located here...

, named after Seth Kane Kwei who invented this new style of coffins, has became an international reference for this form of art.

East African funerals

In Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

 funerals are an expensive undertaking. Keeping bodies in morgues to allow for fund raising is a common occurrence more so in urban areas. Some families opt to bury their dead in the countryside homes instead of urban cemeteries, thus spending more money on transporting the dead.

Thus funeral culture, from some viewpoints, may appear retrogressive both socially and economically. For example, the bereaved will take days off work to travel and to mourn. In addition to this much time is spent preparing large amounts of food that will be consumed during the period and expenditure is high. Similarly, as families are big, funerals may add to their financial burdens. Between 55-70% of the population earn less than $1 per day. Losing a loved one also means losing an income. Both the bereaved and the mourners are poor, but the endless stream of those paying their last respects, and expecting to be fed, make a bad financial situation even worse as mourners do not make any contribution. Funeral attendance is highly depended on status of the bereaved. Funerals are a forum for the display of wealth and status, as reflected by such aspects as the type of casket to the clothing of the immediate family members.

Ancient funeral rites

The most simple and natural kind of funeral monuments, and therefore the most ancient and universal, consist in a mound of earth, or a heap of stones, raised over the body or ashes of the departed: of such monuments mention is made in the Book of Joshua, and in Homer and Virgil.

The place of burial amongst the Jews was never particularly determined. Ancient Jews had burial-places upon the highways, in gardens, and upon mountains. In the Hebrew Bible (known as the Christian Old Testament), Abraham was buried with Sarah, his wife, in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Machpelah, the field he bought from Ephron the Hittite; David, king of Israel, and the other kings after him (including Uzziah of Judah) "rested with [their] ancestors" in the burial field that pertained to the kings.

The primitive Greeks were buried in places prepared for that purpose in their own houses; but later they established burial grounds in desert islands, and outside the walls of towns, by that means securing them from disturbance, and themselves from the liability of catching infection from those who had died of contagious disorders.

Funerals in ancient Rome

In ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, the eldest surviving male of the household, the pater familias, was summoned to the death-bed, where he attempted to catch and inhale the last breath of the decedent.

Funerals of the socially prominent were usually undertaken by professional undertakers called libitinarii. No direct description has been passed down of Roman funeral rites. These rites usually included a public procession to the tomb or pyre where the body was to be cremated. The most noteworthy thing about this procession was that the survivors bore masks bearing the images of the family's deceased ancestors. The right to carry the masks in public was eventually restricted to families prominent enough to have held curule magistracies. Mimes, dancers, and musicians hired by the undertakers, as well as professional female mourners, took part in these processions. Less well-to-do Romans could join benevolent funerary societies (collegia funeraticia) who undertook these rites on their behalf.

Nine days after the disposal of the body, by burial or cremation, a feast
Feast
Feast may refer to:* Banquet, a large meal* A Festival or feria* Ramadan, Muslim's holy month* Nineteen Day Feast, a monthly meeting held in Bahá'í communities to worship, consult, and socialize....

 was given (cena novendialis) and a libation poured over the grave or the ashes. Since most Romans were cremated, the ashes were typically collected in an urn and placed in a niche in a collective tomb called a columbarium (literally, "dovecote"). During this nine day period, the house was considered to be tainted, funesta, and was hung with Taxus baccata or Mediterranean Cypress branches to warn passersby. At the end of the period, the house was swept out to symbolically purge it of the taint of death.

Several Roman holidays commemorated a family's dead ancestors, including the Parentalia, held February 13 through 21, to honor the family's ancestors; and the Feast of the Lemures, held on May 9, 11, and 13, in which ghosts (larvae) were feared to be active, and the pater familias sought to appease them with offerings of beans.

The Romans prohibited cremation or inhumation within the city limits, both from a sacred and civil consideration, so that the priests might not be contaminated by touching a dead body, and so that houses would not be endangered by funeral fires.

Restrictions on the length, ostentation, expense of and behaviour during funerals and mourning were gradually placed by a variety of law-givers. Often the pomp and length of rites could be politically or socially motivated to advertise or aggrandise a particular kin group in Roman society. This was seen as deleterious to society and conditions for grieving were set - for instance, under some laws, women were prohibited from loud wailing or lacerating their faces and limits were introduced for expenditure on tombs and burial clothes.

The Romans commonly built tombs for themselves during their lifetime. Hence these words frequently occur in ancient inscriptions, V.F. Vivus Facit, V.S.P. Vivus Sibi Posuit. The tombs of the rich were usually constructed of marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

, the ground enclosed with walls
Walls
- Other uses :*Wall's , a company that makes ice cream*Wall's sausages, a British sausage brand*Walls, an episode of Power Rangers S.P.D.- Music :*Walls EP, a 2005 album by The Red Paintings*Walls , 2007...

, and planted round with trees. But common sepulchres were usually built below ground, and called hypogea. There were niches cut out of the walls, in which the urns were placed; these, from their resemblance to the niche of a pigeon-house, were called columbaria
Columbarium
A columbarium is a place for the respectful and usually public storage of cinerary urns . The term comes from the Latin columba and originally referred to compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons .The Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas is a particularly fine ancient Roman example, rich in...

.

Funerals in Scotland

An old funeral rite from the Scottish Highlands is to bury the deceased with a wooden plate resting on his chest. In the plate were placed a small amount of earth and salt, to represent the future of the deceased. The earth hinted that the body would decay and become one with the earth, while the salt represented the soul, which does not decay. This rite was known as "earth laid upon a corpse". This practice was also carried out in Ireland, as well as in parts of England, particularly in Leicestershire, although in England the salt was intended to prevent air from distending the corpse.

Funerals in Greece

The Greek word for funeral – kēdeía (κηδεία) – derives from the verb kēdomai (κήδομαι), that means attend to, take care of someone. Derivative words are also kēdemón (κηδεμών, "guardian") and kēdemonía (κηδεμονία, "guardianship"). From the Cycladic civilisation in 3000BC until the Hypo-Mycenaean era in 1200-1100 BC the main practice of burial is interment. The cremation of the dead that appears around the 11th century BC constitutes a new practice of burial and is probably an influence from the East. Until the Christian era, when interment becomes again the only burial practice, both cremation and interment had been practiced depending on the area.

The ancient Greek funeral since the Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

ic era included the próthesē (πρόθεση), the ekphorá (εκφορά), the burial and the perídeipno (περίδειπνο). In most cases, this process is followed faithfully in Greece until today.

Próthesē is the deposition of the body of the deceased on the funereal bed and the threnody of his relatives. Today the body is placed in the casket, that is always open in Greek funerals. This part takes place in the house where the deceased had lived. An important part of the Greek tradition is the epicedium, the mournful songs that are sung by the family of the deceased along with professional mourners (who are extinct in the modern era). The deceased was watched over by his beloved the entire night before the burial, an obligatory ritual in popular thought, which is maintained still.

Ekphorá is the process of transport of the mortal remains of the deceased from his residence to the church, nowadays, and afterward to the place of burial. The procession in the ancient times, according to the law, should have passed silently through the streets of the city. Usually certain favourite objects of the deceased were placed in the coffin in order to "go along with him." In certain regions, coins to pay Charon, who ferries the dead to the underworld, are also placed inside the casket. A last kiss is given to the beloved dead by the family before the coffin is closed.

Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 describes the habit of planting flowers around the tomb as an effort to guarantee the repose of the deceased and the purification of the ground, a custom that is maintained until today. After the ceremony, the mourners return to the house of the deceased for the perídeipno, the dinner after the burial. According to archaeological findings–traces of ash, bones of animals, shards of crockery, dishes and basins–the dinner during the classical era was also organized at the burial spot. Taking into consideration the written sources, however, the dinner could also be served in the houses.

Two days after the burial, a ceremony called “the thirds” would take place, while eight days after the burial, the relatives and the friends of the deceased assembled at the burial spot, where “the ninths” would take place, a custom that is maintained until today. In addition to this, in the modern era, memorial services take place 40 days, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year after the death and from then on every year on the anniversary of the death. The relatives of the deceased, for an unspecified length of time that depends on them, are in mourning, during which women wear black clothes and men a black armband.

Mutes and professional mourners

From about 1600 to 1914, there were two professions in Europe now almost totally forgotten. The mute is depicted in art quite frequently but in literature is probably best known from Dickens' "Oliver Twist." Oliver is working for Sowerberry's when this conversation takes place: "There's an expression of melancholy in his face, my dear ... which is very interesting. He would make a delightful mute, my love". The main purpose of a funeral mute was to stand around at funerals with a sad, pathetic face. A symbolic protector of the deceased, the mute would usually stand near the door of the home or church. In Victorian times, mutes would wear somber clothing including black cloaks, top hats with trailing hatbands, and gloves.

The professional mourner, generally a woman, would shriek and wail (often while clawing her face and tearing at her clothing), to encourage others to weep. These people are mentioned in ancient Greek plays, and were commonly employed throughout Europe until the beginning of the nineteenth century. They continue to exist in Africa and the Middle East. The 2003 award-winning Philippine
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 comedy Crying Ladies revolves around the lives of three women who are part-time professional mourners for the Chinese-Filipino community in Manila's Chinatown. According to the film, the Chinese use professional mourners to help expedite the entry of a deceased loved one's soul into heaven by giving the impression that he or she was a good and loving person, well-loved by many.

State funeral

Military and high-ranking political figures such as Lord Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB was a flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of...

, Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

, and Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 were offered state funeral
State funeral
A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...

s.

Final disposition of the dead

Some cultures place the dead in tombs of various sorts, either individually, or in specially designated tracts of land that house tombs. Burial in a graveyard is one common form of tomb. In some places, burials are impractical because the ground water is too high; therefore tombs are placed above ground, as is the case in New Orleans, Louisiana. Elsewhere, a separate building for a tomb is usually reserved for the socially prominent and wealthy. Especially grand above-ground tombs are called mausoleums. Other buildings used as tombs include the crypts in churches; burial in these places is again usually a privilege given to the socially prominent dead. In more recent times, however, this has often been forbidden by hygiene laws.

Burial was not always permanent. In some areas, burial grounds needed to be re-used because of limited space. In these areas, once the dead have decomposed to skeletons, the bones are removed; after their removal they can be placed in an ossuary
Ossuary
An ossuary is a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. They are frequently used where burial space is scarce. A body is first buried in a temporary grave, then after some years the skeletal remains are removed and placed in an ossuary...

.

"Burial at sea" means the deliberate disposal of a corpse into the ocean, wrapped and tied with weights to make sure it sinks. It is a common practice in navies and seafaring nations; in the Church of England, special forms of funeral service were added to the Book of Common Prayer to cover it. Science fiction writers have frequently analogized with "burial in space."

Cremation, also, is an old custom; it was the usual mode of disposing of a corpse in ancient Rome (along with graves covered with heaped mounds, also found in Greece, particularly at the Karameikos graveyard in Monastiraki). Vikings were occasionally cremated in their longships, and afterwards the location of the site was marked with standing stones. In recent years, despite the objections of some religious groups, cremation has become more and more widely used. Orthodox Judaism and the Eastern Orthodox Church forbid cremation, as do most Muslims. Orthodox Judaism forbids cremation according to Jewish law (Halakha) believing that the soul of a cremated person cannot find its final repose. The Roman Catholic Church forbade it for many years, but since 1963 the church has allowed it so long as it is not done to express disbelief in bodily resurrection. The church specifies that cremated remains are either buried or entombed. They do not allow cremated remains to be scattered or kept at home. Many Catholic cemeteries now have columbarium niches for cremated remains, or specific sections for those remains. Some denominations of Protestantism allow cremation, the more conservative denominations generally do not.

Hindus consider the funeral as the final "samskar" or ritual of life.
Cremation is generally mandatory for all Hindus, except for saints and children under the age of 5 years. Cremation is seen as the only way in which all the five elements of fire, water, earth, air and space would be satisfied by returning the body to these elements as after cremation the ashes are poured into the sacred river Ganges or into the sea.
After death the body of the deceased is placed on the ground with the head of the deceased pointing towards south which is considered the direction of the dead. The body is anointed with sacred items such as sandalwood paste and holy ashes, tulsi (basil) leaves and water from the river Ganges. The eldest son would whisper "Om namah shivay" or "Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya" near the ear of the deceased. An oil lamp is lit besides the deceased and chapters from the holy Bhagavad Gita or Garud Purana are recited. Traditionally the body has to be cremated within 24 hours after death, as keeping the body longer is considered to lead to impurity and hinder the passage of the dead to afterlife. Hence before cremation as the body lies in state, minimal physical contact with the body is observed.

A Hindu priest is called in to lead the formal religious rituals, after which the body is taken to the cremation ground, where the eldest son normally lights the funeral pyre, this act is considered to be the most important duty of a son as it is believed that he leads his parents from this world into moksha.
Immediately after the cremation, the family members of the deceased all have to take a purifying bath and observe a 12-day mourning period. This mourning period ends on the morning of the thirteenth day on which a Shraddh ceremony is conducted in which offerings are given to ancestors and other gods in order to grant liberation or moksha to the deceased.

Recently a new method of disposing of the body, called promession or an Ecological funeral, has been patented by a Swedish company. Its main purpose is to return the body to soil quickly while minimizing pollution and resource consumption.

Rarer forms of disposal of the dead include exposure to the elements and to scavenger animals. This includes various forms of excarnation, where the corpse is stripped of the flesh, leaving only the bones, which are then either buried or stored elsewhere, in ossuaries or tombs for example. This was done by some groups of Native Americans in protohistoric times. Ritual exposure of the dead (without preservation of the bones) is practiced by Zoroastrians in Bombay, where bodies are placed in "Towers of Silence", where vultures and other carrion eating birds then dispose of the corpses. In the present-day structures, the bones are collected in a central pit where (assisted by lime) they too eventually decompose. Exposure to scavenger birds (with preservation of some, but not all bones) is also practiced by some high-altitude Tibetan Buddhists, where practical considerations (the lack of firewood and a shallow active layer) seem to have led to the practice known as jhator or "giving alms to the birds."

Cannibalism is also practiced post-mortem in some countries. The practice has been linked to the spread of a prion disease called kuru.

Mummification is the drying of bodies to preserve them. The most famous practitioners of mummification were ancient Egyptians: many nobles and high-ranked bureaucrats of the old Egyptian kingdom had their corpses embalmed and stored in luxurious sarcophagi inside their funeral mausoleum or, in the cases of some Pharaohs, a pyramid.

Control by the decedent of the details of the funeral

In law in the United States, the deceased have little say in the manner in which their funerals can be conducted. The law generally holds that the funeral rituals are for the benefit of the survivors, rather than to express the personal whims and tastes of the deceased.

The decedent may, in most U.S. jurisdictions, provide instructions as to his funeral by means of a last will and testament. These instructions can be given some legal effect if bequests are made contingent on the heirs carrying them out, with alternative gifts if they are not followed. This assumes, of course, that the decedent has enough of an estate to make the heirs pause before doing something that will invoke the alternate bequest. To be effective, the will must be easily available, and some notion of what it provides must be known to the decedent's survivors.

Of course, most family members of a deceased person would regard any wishes the deceased had made known as carrying considerable moral authority.

Some people choose to make their funeral arrangements in advance, so at the time of their death, their wishes are known to their family.

Anatomical gifts

Another way of avoiding some of the rituals and costs of a traditional funeral is for the decedent to donate some or all of her or his body to a medical school or similar institution for the purpose of instruction in anatomy, or for similar purposes. Students of medicine and osteopathic medicine frequently study anatomy from donated cadavers; they are also useful in forensic research.

Making an anatomical gift is a separate transaction from being an organ donor, in which any useful organs are removed from the unembalmed cadaver for medical Organ transplant. Under a Uniform Act in force in most jurisdictions of the United States, being an organ donor is a simple process that can often be accomplished when a driver's license is renewed.
There are some medical conditions, such as amputations, or various surgeries, that can make the cadaver unsuitable for these purposes. Conversely, the bodies of people who had certain medical conditions are useful for research into those conditions. All US medical schools rely on the generosity of "anatomical donors" for the teaching of anatomy. Typically the remains are cremated once the students have completed their anatomy classes, and many medical schools now hold a memorial service at that time as well.

See also

  • Wake (ceremony)
    Wake (ceremony)
    A wake is a ceremony associated with death. Traditionally, a wake takes place in the house of the deceased, with the body present; however, modern wakes are often performed at a funeral home. In the United States and Canada it is synonymous with a viewing...

  • Dead bell
    Dead bell
    A Dead bell or deid bell , also a 'death', 'mort', 'lych', 'passing bell' or 'skellet bell' was a form of hand bell used in Scotland and northern England. in conjunction with deaths and funerals up until the 19th century.-Origins:...

  • Funerary art
    Funerary art
    Funerary art is any work of art forming, or placed in, a repository for the remains of the dead. Tomb is a general term for the repository, while grave goods are objects—other than the primary human remains—which have been placed inside...

  • List of notable funerals
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