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 United Kingdom funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Angolan funeral traditions and Yanomami tribe funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
United Kingdom Funeral Superstitions
People from the United Kingdom (U.K.) — England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — had several superstitions surrounding death and funerals. They would stop the clocks in the room that the person died in to prevent bad luck. They also covered mirrors so the deceased’s spirit didn’t get trapped. To prevent people from becoming possessed by the deceased’s spirit, they turned photos upside down.
United Kingdom Funeral Service
Since almost 60% of the U.K.’s population identifies as Christian, a United Kingdom funeral typically follows Christian traditions. Mourners wear black or other dark-colored clothing. Sometimes, the family may request that mourners wear the deceased’s favorite color and favorite sports team’s colors.
Unlike in North America, the wake is typically held after the funeral service instead of before. It may be at a family member’s home, the deceased’s home, or another location. They serve food and drinks and share stories about the deceased. Another common tradition, although mostly practiced by younger generations, is going to a pub after the funeral to celebrate the deceased’s life.
Many families still have funeral processions to honor their loved one. Traditionally, everyone walked and followed the horse and carriage carrying the casket. Today, everyone follows the hearse in their vehicles, and they have flags on them to let other drivers know that there’s a funeral procession.
Burial was the most common funeral arrangement, but now both burial and cremation are common arrangements. Green burial traditions also are becoming more popular. For a traditional burial, mourners throw soil, flowers, or other significant items onto the casket to show their love and remembrance for the deceased. The most common funeral flowers are white lilies and carnations.
Many families have memorial gatherings to honor the deceased’s life. It’s also common to create unique mementos to remember the deceased by, such as cremation jewelry made from a loved one’s ashes, memorial ornaments, or photo-based mementos.