Funeral and memorial services have been around as long as humans have. And with more than two million people dying every year in the U.S. alone, there have been countless funerals over the years. But where did funerals begin? And furthermore, how have funerals changed over time? Well, let’s delve into the history of funerals to answer these questions.
While every culture and civilization has a different way when it comes to mourn and celebrate the loss of a person, there are a few things all funerals and memorial services have in common — there is always some type of ceremony or ritual and there is always a sacred place the dead are laid to rest.
The ancient Egyptians are known for some of the most infamous funeral methods. Egyptians were the ones who created embalming, which is a method still used today. The method of body preservation used back then was mummification. Levels of mummification varied depending on who the person was and the cost that was willing to be paid. In fact, levels of body preservation continued to depend on the ranking of the person and the cost throughout the years.
Religion also played a major role in funerals, as it still does today. From sacrifices being made for the dead to avoiding touching the deceased, there are tons of different practices across cultures. Being buried with certain objects or in certain ways can be done to appease religious beliefs as well. Prayers, religious symbols, and even sacred burial grounds can all be related to religion.
In early America, families of the deceased were responsible for all funeral preparations, including dressing the deceased. Today, families have access to the help of funeral directors for all aspects of funeral planning. But back then, there were the funeral services we have available today. During the Civil War is when embalming really became popular in the U.S. to preserve the bodies of those who died in the war so they could be sent back home.
In the late 1800s, professional morticians became more available with the rise of school and training. Today’s funeral homes can help families of the deceased ensure their final wishes are met.
Funerals and memorial services still vary greatly across religions and cultures. Celebrating the life of the deceased is something that is done all around the world with the help of funerals and other ceremonies.