Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Portuguese funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Icelandic funeral traditions and Somali funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Portuguese Funeral Service
According to the 2011 census, 81% of Portugal’s population is Catholic, dating back as far as the 12th century. For this reason, Portuguese funeral services typically follow Catholic traditions. Family is very important in the Portuguese culture, so funerals usually have a large number of attendees, including distant relatives.
In Portugal towns, church bells may ring to announce the death of a community member. Some towns leave the deceased’s house door open, so community members can go inside to mourn with the deceased’s family.
If there’s a burial, a hearse takes the casket to the cemetery. A Portuguese funeral procession is usually slow with mourners walking beside the hearse unless it’s too far of a walk.
A Portuguese hearse looks slightly different than the one here in America. In Portugal, it looks like a van and there’s a raised platform in the back for the casket. The back walls are made mostly of glass. This way, mourners can view the casket and the floral arrangements around it.
Burial or Cremation Arrangements
Both burial and cremation are practiced in Portugal. The three most popular Portuguese funeral arrangements are a traditional burial, direct burial, and direct cremation. A traditional burial has a viewing beforehand and is more expensive than the other options. Sometimes for a direct burial, there’s a memorial service at the gravesite or the family has one at a later date.
Family members wear black during the mourning period. Widows might wear black for the rest of their lives to represent their loss. Close family members wear black for an extended amount of time. The closer you were to the deceased, the longer you wear black.
I have recently heard of their loved ones being exhumed to scrapetheir bones and put them into a smaller box, this allows 3 boxes to be buried in the same plot. Can you confirm this practice? Thank you, Nancy Petrucci