Traditional customs at an Italian funeral

June 24, 2014

If you're attending an Italian funeral, you may want to know about the traditions and customs surrounding the internment of the deceased. It's a difficult time for everyone and you don't want to unintentionally offend the family of the departed. Once you know about the relevant customs, you'll be better prepared to know what to do before, during and after the ceremony.

Traditional customs at an Italian funeral

Before the funeral

If you're also acquainted with the family or loved ones that the deceased left behind, Italian traditions dictate that you should offer support and pay your respects in the days before the funeral takes place. There are two main customs associated with this. One is sending flowers and the other one is bringing food. It's not unusual for the bereaved to have enough food to offer to other mourners or to freeze and keep for later.

Seeing the body

It's traditional to have an open casket at Italian funerals, and all mourners should view the body of the deceased. In Italian culture, it's common to kiss the cheek or the forehead of the departed body as a final sign of love and respect.

The service

Since many Italians subscribe to Catholicism, an Italian funeral service generally follows the traditions of a Catholic funeral. Rituals involved with the funeral include the last rites, prayer vigil, liturgy and funeral mass. Family may also come up to read the Bible or talk about the deceased. The focus of Italian funerals is on mourning, rather than celebrating the life of the departed, so expect it to be an especially sad affair. It's traditional and respectful to wear black.

The burial

After the main service, pallbearers will take the coffin to the burial site and mourners will gather at the graveside to see the body interned into the ground. At this point, there may be a a few more words and in some cases, each mourner will throw a handful of earth onto the coffin.

After the funeral

As is common throughout many parts of the world, a reception is generally held at the home of the departed's family, after the funeral service and burial is concluded. This gives an extra chance for people to say goodbye and share memories about the deceased. Guests may also bring food to this reception, which helps lessen the burden on the bereaved family.

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