Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Armenian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Nigerian funeral traditions and Botswana funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
The night before the funeral, there is a wake at the deceased’s home. The deceased’s family keeps the body at home, so family and friends can come view the deceased. They watch over the body during the night and pay their respects. They also may serve coffee and pastries for everyone.
Large, colorful flower wreaths are a staple funeral tradition that many families hang on their door during the wake. These wreaths typically have a memorial message decorated on them, and many families also display them at the funeral.
Armenian Funeral Service
An Armenian funeral service is typically about three days after the death, and not on Saturdays after 3 p.m. or Sundays. Since 92.5% of Armenians are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, an Armenian funeral typically follows this religion’s traditions.
Before leaving for the funeral, many families knock on the door with the casket three times. Then, they spin the casket three times before taking it to the funeral location, usually a church. There is a church service where the pastor says a brief biography about the deceased, but eulogies aren’t said until the post-funeral reception.
Burial is most common since the Armenian Apostolic Church doesn’t approve of cremation. Many families also include a photo of the deceased on their gravestone.
During the post-funeral meal is when funeral guests can say eulogies and share stories and memories of the deceased. It’s usually held at a restaurant, or it could be at someone’s home. They may wait until everyone is done eating their food, which is typically a meat and potato dish.
The forty-day mourning period doesn’t start until after the burial service. Those close to the deceased may wear dark colored clothing during this time, and men don’t shave until the 40th day. They also visit the gravesite on the seventh and 14th days after death, as well as the one-year death anniversary and New Year’s Day. Everyone brings food, alcohol, or flowers as offerings for the deceased.