The burial rituals in America are just as diverse as the countless religions, ethnicities, and cultures that live here. Being the melting pot that America is, it’s no surprise that there is a variety of interesting burial rituals in America. Even burial rituals in America in the 21st century are much different than two centuries before. At Bayer Cemetery Brokers we help you find well-preserved cemetery plots for your loved ones based on your needs. Being in the business for more than 30 years combined, we’ve seen it all when it comes to the different burial rituals.
The Past & The Present
According to The Funeral Source, “in early America, home funerals were the practice everywhere and each community had a group of women who came in to help with the ‘laying out of the dead.’ Visitation was held in the front parlor followed by a procession to the church and cemetery.” Of course that was when towns and communities were smaller. Where everyone knew each other and everyone could help with the burial. But then “home parlors” became replaced by funeral homes. (Fun fact: the parlor was where the body would be put on display inside homes and an area that was never really used before. But since the replacement of home parlors, the parlor was turned into the…you guessed it, the “living room.”)
Once the United States, during and after the Civil War, started making national military cemeteries, graveyards at “park like settings” became the standard. Moving the burials from small cemeteries behind churches to larger parks was also America’s attempt to solve the issue of church cemeteries filling up at a rate they weren’t considering, especially after the Civil War. However in modern times large sprawling parks have become the norm to be buried in. At some of the memorial parks we have burial plots at like Inglewood Park Cemetery and Joshua Memorial Park, you can find a wide range of comfortable resting places, from traditional ground burials to lawn and mausoleum crypts.
Having the right to religious freedoms in America also means being able to have burial services accustomed to your religious beliefs. For the Jewish community, burial takes place, traditionally, within 24 hours. The actual burial itself has a tradition called “placing earth in the grave.” Reform Judaism details this particular ritual, “Since the mitzvah of ‘accompanying the dead for burial’ is so important, the act of placing earth into the grave takes on a very important role in the service. In some communities, the entire casket is covered with earth…earth is symbolically placed in the grave.”
For Muslim burial traditions only men are allowed at the actual grave site during the burial. But that depends on local custom and Islamic law. In some cases in the US, this is interpreted as women can follow the burial procession to the grave site, and stand and be witnesses to the body being put to rest but they stand quietly and letting the men do the lowering and speaking if any. Interestingly enough for Muslim burials some locations are really important. According to How Stuff Works, if the cemetery is near a lot of wildlife, sometimes the burial plot will be covered the grave with bricks or stones to keep animals away from the body.
In Catholicism, the religious value the great dignity of the human body so much so, that even if a body was cremated, the remains are never scattered, but buried in the sacred ground of a cemetery. The religion dictates that it’s in keeping with the sanctity of the body.
Indigenous Tribes across America have had different burial rituals usually influenced by their regional environments. Arctic tribes left their dead on the frozen ground for wild animals to devour. In the Upper Midwest, the Hopewell societies placed the dead in lavishly furnished tombs. Southeastern tribes practiced secondary bone burial. They would dig up the corpses, cleansed the bones, and then rebury them. The Northeast Iroquois saved skeletons of the deceased for a final mass burial that included furs and ornaments for the dead spirits use in the afterlife. In the southern California region, tribes practiced cremation, while the Northwest coastal tribes interestingly enough put their dead in mortuary cabins or canoes fastened to poles. Interested in reading more about Indigenous American peoples from the Stone Age to the modern era? Check out Death Reference’s page on the other rituals and tribes.
Over centuries, burial rituals in America have been creative, interesting, and spiritualistic for the dead as well as those who are in mourning. For most, a burial ritual is put into place to provide comfort for the living (and comfort for the dead). Bayer Cemetery Brokers can aide with finding that burial plot where your ritual will take place in our various locations in Southern California. Call today 877.445.7143 or 760.247.8518 for more information on the specific locations we’ll have available at the serene memorial parks.