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How Have Funerals Changed Over Time?

From the ancient traditions of mummification to celebrations of life today, funerals have come a long way. The way we care for the dead and say our final goodbyes has definitely been subject to the evolution of socio-cultural as well as economic changes.

Funerals in the early years

Many of the most common funeral traditions in western culture today originate from the 19th century, during the Victorian era. In fact, it was Queen Victoria herself who started wearing black to mourn the passing of Prince Albert, and the color soon came to be associated with grieving and mourning.

Towards the end of the Victorian era, the Chapel of Rest was introduced as a funeral tradition. As people became more aware and less superstitious, and concerns regarding hygiene became more widespread, the body of the deceased was kept at the Chapel of Rest, rather than at home. Friends and family members who wish to view the body and say their final goodbyes to their loved one could do so in the chapel.

As the years progressed, the role of undertakers grew in importance. Initially, woodworkers and carpenters, who had the skills to make coffins, were the undertakers. With time, undertakers took on more roles, including handling and preparation of the body, transportation, as well as organizing the funeral or memorial service.

The 21st century saw a shift in the way the dead were cared for. Due to the millions of lives lost in the First World War and bodies not returned to families, communal mourning and memorials instead of traditional funeral services became very common.

Funerals today

Today, there is a growing trend to hold celebrations of life rather than traditional funerals. Pre-planned funerals, personalized funerals, and memorials are popular choices.

While grief is still a very important factor, people choose to put more of their focus on the life that their loved one had lived, and celebrate and honor their memory.


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