The term ‘burial ceremony’, as interpreted by contemporary society, actually defies definition. Moreover, people’s perceptions of what constitutes a traditional funeral have broadened, in recent times, to encompass, for example, natural and green burials, burial at sea and other forms of modern-day burial.
Even within the context of a traditional religious burial, ceremony formats and funeral arrangements may differ markedly according to the particular denomination of faith involved.
Nevertheless, the concept of what constitutes a ‘traditional burial’ is still generally associated, particularly within the UK, with a religious funeral ceremony conducted by a minister of the Christian faith, followed by interment in a traditional graveyard or cemetery.
Common features of traditional burial ceremonies
Despite the vast variations in format and the interpretation of what constitutes a traditional burial, these types of funerals tend to have certain features and rituals in common. Typical features include:
- The wake, when the body of the deceased is placed on view, so that mourners can pay their final and private respects; this usually takes place at the funeral parlour, for a few days, prior to the actual funeral service; (this is a particularly strong tradition within the Catholic faith)
- The funeral ceremony that focuses on celebrating the life of the deceased
- The eulogy which usually takes the form of personal remarks, readings and observations delivered by friends of the deceased;
- Obituaries The interment or burial when the deceased is finally laid to rest; this part of the funeral is usually accompanied by the parting words of the religious, or non-religious, civil officiant the gathering of mourners after the funeral at an appropriate venue for refreshments, hosted in a more relaxed environment
Trends for contemporary burial ceremonies
Although, traditional funerals still tend to be conducted within a religious or semi-religious context, religious overtones are becoming increasingly less significant or meaningful for a large proportion of today’s population
The number of civil, secular and humanist burials ceremonies in contemporary society is on the increase, with the bereaved choosing instead to personalise and focus the ceremony exclusively on celebrating the life of the person who has died, to the exclusion of any form of religious content;
Even where otherwise traditional funerals are concerned, demand for environmentally-friendly funerals and especially for woodland burials has witnessed unprecedented growth, in recent years.