The Process of Greek Funerals
The Greeks main practice of burial was to intern the body. At Greek funerals, the Greek people bury their dead within 24 hours.
A Greek Orthodox funeral consists of different stages – the wake, funeral service, the burial followed by a funeral meal. There are some customs which take place within these steps.
Cremation of the dead only appeared around the 11th century BC. That constituted a whole new practice of burial. The practice of cremating the dead probably came from the East and influenced the Greek people.
Up until the Christian era, Greeks practiced both interment and cremation of the dead, depending on the area in Greece. There was only burial during the Christian period.
Greek Funerals – The Burial Process
Ancient Greek funerals – since the Homeric era – included the próthesis practice as well as the ekphorá practice which are still followed faithfully by the Greek people today.
Próthesis is the deposition of the deceased’s body on the funeral bed. In today’s times, family places the body of the dead person in a casket. This casket is always open at a Greek funeral. This always takes place in the home where the deceased lived.
Mournful songs or epicedium form a very important part of the Greek funeral, and members of the family sing these.
Professional mourners – What happened to them?
In ancient times, there would be professional mourners who would sing with the family mourners, but this practice is no longer in use. During the night, the deceased would be watched over by his family before the burial, and this ritual is still maintained today.
Ekphorá is the transportation of the mortal remains of the body. That will take place from his place of residence to the church. From the church, the body goes ahead to the place for burial, and this is still the case today.
In ancient times, and according to law, the funeral procession would have passed silently along the streets of the city. Usually, in the coffin, were the favourite objects of the dead person.
In some other regions, coins would be placed in the coffin, and this would have paid Charon. Charon ferried the deceased to the underworld. With the coffin still open, the beloved of the deceased will give the person the last kiss before the coffin is closed.
Greek Funerals – Rest in Peace
Cicero, the ancient Roman orator, described how the habit of flower planning around the tomb of the deceased was a good effort to guarantee the peace of the dead as well as purifying the ground. This custom is also maintained to this day.
With the funeral ceremony behind them, the mourners go back to the deceased’s house for the perídeipnon. That is a dinner for the mourners after the burial has taken place.
Archaeological findings of ash traces, bones of animals, shard pieces of crockery, basins and dishes, and basins reveal that these dinners also took place at the burial spot.
Greek Funerals – Mourning
Eight days after the burial, friends and relatives of the deceased would gather at the burial spot. Here ‘the ninths’ would take place. This is a custom that still takes place today.
A memorial service will take place 40 days, three months, six months, nine months, one year after death. After that, every year on the anniversary of the death, this will occur.
For an unspecified time, the women of the family wear black, and the men will wear a black armband.
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