Funeral Customs by religion, Ethnicity, and Culture
The death of a friend or loved one is an incredibly emotional and trying time, making it exceptionally important that funeral etiquette be observed to avoid offending or upsetting anyone. Below is a guide to honoring the customs and traditions according to religious or cultural belief at a viewing or wake, funeral, cremation, or graveside service.
Protestant - Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Baptist
Appropriate expressions of sympathy include sending a card, attending the visitation or funeral, sending flowers to the family home or funeral home, donating to a charity designated by the family, or bringing food to the family's home.
The Protestant funeral ceremony emphasizes the afterlife and celebrates the deceased person's life through testimonials and remembrances. A minister usually conducts the service with participation from family and friends. Funeral guests should dress respectably, although most people no longer wear the traditional black clothing.
Respectable and somber floral arrangements may be sent to the funeral home or to the family's residence. Donations are appropriate and may be sent in the name of the deceased to their charity of choice.
Before the funeral, Catholics hold the Vigil (Wake). Candles and flowers decorate the wake , as well as the funeral service and the burial ground. It is customary to make a brief visit and spend a few moments in private prayer and then to visit with the family members.
Funeral Mass (Requiem) is performed in a Catholic church by a priest. At the Mass, lighting a candle to celebrate the departed will bring comfort to the mourners. After the burial, family and friends will gather at the home of a close family member to share food and drink brought by family and friends..
Hispanic Religion equates to the Roman Catholic faith among most Hispanics. Many grew up practicing many of the typical Roman Catholic Sunday mass and funeral traditions. The wake may include mariachis, overnight visitations, and a family feast. Floral tributes are welcome. A simple bouquet given to the bereaved or a tribute in the shape of a cross or a personalized candle makes an acceptable gift, as does lighting a candle in the church.
Personal items and gifts may be laid in the casket to help the deceased have a successful journey to the afterworld. Burial follows the ceremony. Following the burial, the family usually gathers to eat, reminisce and comfort each other.
Mexicans and Central Americans believe there are days when the dead return to walk among us and that their loved ones' bodies have died but that their spirits live on. They pray to them, talk to them and turn to them for guidance and support.
Charitable donations are fitting memorial gifts, please note that flowers are not appropriate. The service is performed by a rabbi and the burial takes place within 24 hours of death. Funeral attire consists of dark-colored clothing. Men wear a head covering known as a yarmulke, which is provided by the funeral home.
After the burial, the immediate family sits in mourning or "Shiva" in their home for the next seven days. It is customary for family, friends and coworkers to come by the home and pay their respects to the family, this is known as paying a Shiva call. Desserts, fruit, and Kosher food baskets are traditionally taken to or sent to the home, however, flowers are not appropriate for a Shiva call.
White flowers are the traditional Buddhist flower of mourning and may be sent to the family. Sending red flowers or gifts of food are considered poor funeral etiquette. A donation to the family or a designated charity in the name of the deceased are appropriate.
At the viewing, candles and incense burn until the body is moved to the cemetery or crematorium. Visitors should greet the family and offer their condolences, then go to the casket and bow. They may then either stay for a while or leave. Visitors will often make a financial donation to the family at the viewing.
The funeral service is conducted by a monk at the funeral home. Guests are expected to bow slightly toward the body (in an open casket) as a sign of appreciation for its lessons regarding impermanence. White is worn by the grieving family; friends often wear black. Friends may call the home of the deceased's family after the funeral but not before.
The service is conducted by a Hindu priest and family members. They try to hold the ceremony followed by cremation within 24 hours after death. Mourners dress casually in simple white clothes and arrive empty-handed; they do not bring flowers or gifts to the funeral. Guests should not exchange greetings with the official mourners, but instead nod or hug in sympathy - the least said the better. Flower garlands and mixed seasonal sprays of flowers may be in the open casket. Guests are expected to view the body.
Ten days after death, a ceremony is held at the home of the deceased in order to liberate the soul for its ascent into heaven. If you visit the home at this time, you are expected to bring fruit.
In Asian funerals white or yellow mums are appreciated. In China, Japan and Korea, white chrysanthemums are symbolic of lamentation and grief. Yellow chrysanthemums are also a traditional funeral flower. In Chinese cultures, the family wears white at the funeral and does not wear any jewelry or red clothing, as red is the color of happiness. If you have any questions or concerns about sending funeral flowers to an Asian funeral, you might want to contact the funeral home or a family friend or relative who can provide you with more information.
Opinion varies as to the appropriateness of sending flowers to an Islamic funeral. Some say the Islamic emphasis on simplicity makes gifts of flowers unsuitable. Others say sending flowers is appropriate.
Your best option is to ask a local religious leader or the family if flowers are appropriate. If they are, then fragrant flowers such as roses are very popular. Palm branches, other greens, or individual flowers are also often placed on the grave.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Mormon Funeral
Floral tributes are encouraged and appropriate for a Mormon ceremony, except do not send anything in the shape of a cross. Crosses and crucifix are not permitted because Latter-day Saints believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ.
Funerals are conducted by the bishop of the deceased's congregation, typically within one week of death and may take place in a church, funeral home or at graveside. They are not normally held inside the temple. It is appropriate to visit or contact the family to offer condolences before and after the funeral. Modest attire (suit and tie for men; dress or suit for women) are appropriate. No head covering is required. Guests typically attend the burial following the funeral service.