Funeral Customs Around the World

Funeral Customs Around the World Italy

Last Updated: 3rd February 2022

The Italians are superstitious about death and many of the customs and traditions that were followed many years ago continue to this day.

Whilst the Italians might be known for their flamboyant and dramatic attitudes, it has always been and continues to be traditional to keep funerals, that are considered a major event in the Italian culture, less theatrical affairs.

In the past, if the deceased person was wealthy, their family might have paid mourners to wail and cry at the graveside during a funeral.  Now, in most cases, because Italian funerals are considered to be significant and warrant the dignity and respect the deceased deserve, they are often carried out with little drama.

The Italians’ superstitious about death include the deceased never really leaving the earth.  There are a number of rituals carried out in order that a dead loved one successfully passes from earth and whilst burying them, a few of the deceased’s favourite belongings join them in their coffin (such as books, photos, jewellery and even cigarettes).

Some believe that by not speaking about the deceased person after the mourning period has ended, it allows their dead loved one remain in another place and not be brought back to earth.

Funerals in Italy are a community affair.  It is traditional for everyone in the deceased’s town or village to attend and even posters adorn their home town or village of the deceased, similar to an obituary that some cultures find in newspapers.

As soon as news breaks that someone has died, friends and neighbours will offer food and drink the to the grieving family.  This allows the family of the deceased to offer fruit, casseroles, wine and desserts to any mourners that visit them to offer support.

As Catholicism is the majority religion followed in Italy, traditions might include last rites being read, a vigil being held, the deceased being in an open casket and kissed or touched, traditional prayers, pall bearers and a proper Mass taking place.

Flowers are significant in Italian funeral and are often given to the family of the deceased traditionally, so that the church and casket are inundated with flowers.

During an Italian burial, mourners will throw dirt onto the casket or a single rose is placed on top of it, however, burials in Italy are becoming less likely due to the lack of space in Italy.

Those wishing to be buried in Italy will find their graves are stacked on top of others within a mausoleum.

For the Italian families that are fortunate to have loved ones buried in a graveyard, they tend to them and maintain their upkeep forever.  Italian cemeteries are public spaces in which people use for leisure activities including picnics and walks. 

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