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 Dutch funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Israeli funeral traditions and Palaun funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Religious and Death Beliefs
A little more than 50% of the Netherlands’ population considers themselves non-religious. The most common religion is Catholicism with 23.7% of the population, followed by the Dutch Reformed Church at 6.5%.
For those who identify with a religion, their afterlife beliefs tend to follow their religion’s views of the afterlife. However, Dutch people don’t tend to openly discuss death.
Dutch Funeral Service
A Dutch funeral service is a sad, yet important occasion that’s often an invite-only event. The invitation may also include how the family wishes the attendee participates in the funeral. Since more than half of the Netherlands’ population is non-religious, the funeral service may not be in a church. Funeral attendees should wear dark-colored clothing to reflect their mourning.
As for funeral music, the most popular Dutch funeral song is Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. The next most popular songs are Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton and Afscheid Nemen Bestaat Niet (There’s No Such Thing As Saying Goodbye) by Marco Borsato.
Traditional Dutch Funeral Practices
One traditional funeral practice that isn’t as common today is to cover the windows with white sheets. This was when someone died in their home, and they wanted to keep away evil spirits. There were other traditional customs when a married woman passed away. Their family buried her in her wedding nighttime attire, and they sewed her initials in a cerecloth with one needle and thread. Then, they either broke the needle in half and put it in the casket or burned it in a fire.
Another traditional funeral trend that’s starting to lose popularity is coffee and cake. Many families serve the funeral guests coffee and cake after the service. However, some families may rather buy everyone drinks and toast to the deceased’s life following the funeral instead.
Burial or Cremation
Dutch people may choose burial or cremation as their end-of-life arrangement. Some green burial methods may soon become popular, as well. No matter which end-of-life arrangement, they have it by the sixth day after the death. Although, cremation is usually right after a Dutch funeral. Then, families can choose to keep the ashes in an urn or scatter them if they have permission. People also may choose cremation because there’s a lack of burial space. There’s also the option to lease a burial plot for 10 to 20 years.