In most cultures around the world, when a loved one passes, family and friends gather to honor their life. More often than not, food is involved in this gathering. Sharing a meal creates a sense of community for those grieving and is a central part of many traditions.
Below we are sharing a variety of funeral food rituals from all around the world. To learn even more funeral traditions and customs, check out our weekly Cultural Spotlight blog!
Note, these funeral food traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Lemons Left on Graves
A tradition that was common around the late 19th century in Switzerland was for men at the funeral service to wrap a handkerchief around a lemon and place it into their hat. During the funeral, they were to carry the hat under their left arm. Once the service was coming to an end, they placed the lemons on the grave. The lemons symbolized the sharpness of their grief.
Koliva Blessed During the Funeral
Koliva is a boiled wheat dish that can be combined with powdered sugar, honey, cinnamon, or whatever the family chooses. It is usually decorated with seeds, dried fruit, or candy made into elaborate patterns. Orthodox Christians across Greece, Russia, and Eastern Europe make this dish when a loved one dies. During the funeral service it is blessed by a priest.
Coffee and Cake After the Service
After Dutch funeral services, the family of the deceased will serve their guests coffee and cake. However, this is beginning to lose popularity since many families are now buying guests a drink to toast to the deceased’s life instead.
A Savory Dish for Comfort
Mormon funeral potatoes are the ultimate comfort food considering that they are made of potatoes, cheese, onions, cream sauce, sour cream, and topped with butter and corn flakes. It’s a popular dish in the American Intermountain West, commonly served as a side dish after funerals for people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faith.
Pouring a Drink for the Deceased
Tanzanians have many food rituals to honor their ancestors. One is pouring a small portion of their drink on the floor to show respect for their ancestors. They may also leave a drink in a special place as an offering or sacrifice a chicken or goat at a ceremony.
What funeral food rituals does your family have? Share by commenting below!