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Italian Funeral Traditions

Throughout life, there are many different occasions or events that happen that people like to celebrate or commemorate in some way. At the end of a life, a funeral takes place and this is both an occasion for mourning and also the celebration of a person’s life. Each culture and religion have their own traditions, customs, and superstitions relating to funerals. The following are some of the customs for funerals in the Italian culture.

Throughout life, there are many different occasions or events that happen that people like to celebrate or commemorate in some way. At the end of life, a funeral takes place and this is both an occasion for mourning and also the celebration of a person’s life. Each culture and religion have their own traditions, customs, and superstitions relating to funerals. The following are some of the customs for funerals in the Italian culture.

​Superstitions

One Italian superstition is that the souls of the dead never actually leave the earth. To make sure they leave successfully, the Italians perform a variety of rituals. One of these is burying loved ones with their favorite items. Also, Italians will often not speak the name of a person following their death as they fear it will bring the person back from the dead.
Food
As soon as people hear of a death, they will take food around to the home of the deceased’s family. This food is then both eaten by the family and offered to anyvisiting guests. Typical examples of food gifts include wine, fruit baskets, casseroles, and desserts.

​Funeral Posters

In Italy, funerals are usually open to any villagers who want to attend the ceremony and burial. To make sure the locals are aware of the details, it is common for a family in mourning to put up posters advertising the funeral arrangements.

​Mourning

In the past, wealthier Italian families would often pay for people to come and wail at the funeral of their loved one. This tradition has declined over the years as modern Italians like to show respect and dignity at a funeral and do not consider wailing a part of this. However, there is still a recognized period of mourning following a death.

​Flowers

In many cultures, flowers are an important and symbolic element of a funeral and this is certainly the case in Italy. Not only will flowers adorn the church and the casket, they are also given to the family of the deceased as gifts.

​Funeral Services

Catholicism is the predominant religion in Italy, so burial services are in line with Catholic rituals. A full mass with the last rites, a vigil, and a funeral liturgy is the standard procedure. Usually, a eulogy is delivered by a family member or close friend.

​The Casket

Most Italians follow the Catholic tradition of having an open casket prior to the funeral. People who visit the deceased will often kiss them on their forehead or cheek. Touching the hand of the deceased is also a sign of respect.

The Funeral Procession

Traditionally, mourners would follow a horse-drawn carriage carrying the casket to the burial site. These days, the casket is likely to be carried in a hearse with mourners following along in their own vehicles.

​The Burial Site

Mourners gather around the grave site. Often, each mourner will toss a handful of dirt or a rose over the casket. In Italy, it is quite rare to be buried in the ground due to a lack of space. Instead, graves are stacked in concrete mausoleums.

Funeral Attire

It is traditional for all mourners attending a funeral in Italy to wear black. Historically, the spouse of the deceased will continue to wear black for an extended period as a sign of their mourning. However, in modern Italy, many people choose not to carry out this particular tradition. Like all cultures, Italians have a range of traditions, customs, and superstitions relating to death and funerals. To a certain extent, many of these have changed over time. However, there are still many of the funeral traditions that modern Italians continue to follow.

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