Funerals: The Most Somber of Somber Occasions


Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

Slave or King, rich or poor, good or evil, death eventually comes for us all. There’s no getting around it. Our families die. Our friends die. Our heroes die. We die. It’s not something we like to think about but it’s an inevitability. We will all face death. We will all lose those we love. Despite the inevitability of them, we rarely discuss funerals.

Funerals are a part of every culture, although they may vary extensively. Death is an irrevocable change so we all must come to terms with it when it happens. A funeral may be chance to commiserate a loss or celebrate a life. 

Funerary Customs

Every culture, sub-culture, and religion has funerary customs, such as the black veils of Latin America, the twenty-one gun salute of military funerals, and the Jewish use of stones. Before attending a funeral you’ll want to familiarise yourself with those customs. A distant family member is usually the best place to start. They’ll likely be familiar with the customs but won’t be too busy or distraught to help you. You can also feel free to incorporate customs from your own culture so long as they don’t conflict in any way with the family’s. You’re also exempt from any customs that run contrary to your own beliefs and are under no obligation to sacrifice your own needs.

From this point on I’ll be writing from a purely North American Christian perspective. If anything conflicts with your own customs, then your customs are right.

How to Dress

Funerals are part of why you should have multiple suits. Funerals are best kept an informal affair, but custom certainly trumps that. Typically a man should wear a black suit, preferably with a white shirt and black tie. Pocket squares are completely acceptable but be sure to leave all the cheery colours and flamboyant patterns at home. Also, be sure to remove your hat in the church and at the gravesite. 

Ladies should wear simple black outfits. Again, leave the cheery colours and flamboyant patterns at home. A funeral is also an excellent place to break out a hat with a veil. There’s no need for ladies to ever remove their hats.

It’s only appropriate to wear uniforms at military, police, or firefighter funerals, and even then only if you are or once were a part of such an organisation. There’s no need to remove uniform headdress at the gravesite but it should still be taken off in the church.


Like many events, funerals have a traditional itinerary. They usually start with a viewing the night before. This is a casual service that’s open to the public but usually attended only by those who were particularly close to the deceased or their family. A second family viewing is often held immediately before the service. The former is typically at a funeral home and the latter is usually at the church.

The main component of a funeral is the service. The service usually takes place at the deceased’s church or at the gravesite. If the main service is at a church then there’s usually a second shorter service at the grave. The deceased’s religious views are usually very appparent at the service and there can even be a full church service. Regardless of the church, conduct yourself appropriately for a visitor there. When the gravesite is some distance from the church, mourners travel to the grave in a ceremonial procession. 

Funerals will commonly end with a simple meal. To many, it’s the beginning of life without the deceased. It’s a good time to catch up with friends and family, and give your condolences to the family. It’s also the time when a funeral ceases to be somber.


The typical funeral procession is led by the hearse and includes all the mourners driving at slow speeds. The vehicles generally have their hazard lights turned on so other motorists know that they’re part of a funeral procession. It used to be the norm to turn on the headlights but, with the prevalence of daytime running lights, this is no longer effective.


In some western cultures it’s common for funerals to celebrate the deceased’s life more than mourn their passing. This usually takes the form of a party. In those cases, the etiquette of a similar party held for some other purpose applies.

Sympathy Notes

If you can’t attend a funeral or don’t get a chance to speak with the family, then you may want to send them a sympathy note. Actually writing the note has plenty of its own etiquette but it should always be hand written and sent or delivered within a few days of the funeral. If you deliver it in person, don’t expect an invitation to come in. Grieving people often feel asocial and you need to respect that.

Future Remembrance

Few people deserve to be forgotten. The good should be venerated forever and the evil should remain a cautionary tale. Consider attending an All Saints Day service and possibly visiting the grave periodically.


Finding Your Easter Traditions

Today is Good Friday so there’s no better time to talk about Easter traditions. I’m a very strong proponent of traditions, be they old or new. If you’re a father there’s no better way to build a family identity and pass on your legacy to future generations. I’ve come up with a few ideas to spark your imagination and find your Easter traditions. 

Attend Services

Since Easter was born out of Christian teachings, its religious observances certainly deserve consideration. Most churches hold at least two services over the Easter weekend, my church has three and I usually attend them all. 

Look at Wildflowers

I know, this one doesn’t spin all that manly but want your traditions to include the fairer sex members of your family as well. Easter is about new life and rebirth and the wildflower is the perfect symbol of this, going from nonexistence or looking like death itself to some of the most beautiful things in nature. Not to mention, it takes you into the ruggedness of nature. 

Local Easter Event

If your community has the same event every Easter it would be worth considering making it an Easter tradition. The men of my family attend the Draggins Rod & Custom Car Show every Easter weekend. It’s good male bonding and all the proceeds go to charity. 

Easter Basket

This one’s more for the little ones but everyone can have some fun with it. Fill some baskets or other containers with candy and some decorative filler and give them to the kids. If you want it to be more fun, hide them and make a game out of looking for them. 

Egg Dying

If you want something more artistic, egg dying is the way to go. You can do some pretty elaborate dying or just keep it simple. 

Easter Egg Hunt

If you’re wondering what to do with those dyed eggs, here’s an option. Hide them around your home and make a game out of the kids looking for them. If you’d prefer you can use plastic eggs and fill them with candy for even more fun. 

Local Traditions

If you live in a culture with some more unconventional Easter traditions you should consider indulging in them, or even traditions from your own heritage. After all, what’s the point of traditions if they don’t carry on a legacy?

There you have it, Easter tradition ideas. If you have tradition ideas of your own, then join in down in the comments. 

Just for fun, a bunny I saw outside while I was writing this.

Make Holidays into Holy Days, Not Just Days Off

In most cases, holidays weren’t created to give us more leisure time but to commemorate or celebrate something. The word itself comes from the phrase “holy days” as they were originally days of greater religious significance than even the Judeo-Christian sabbath. However, these days many people ignore the significance of holidays. Americans spend Memorial Day at the lake and Canadians eschew their Remembrance Day poppies. I’m going to tell you why you should faithfully observe holidays and help you figure out how. 

Why You Should Observe Holidays

All holidays were created for a purpose. There are a few that exist just to create leisure time but most have a grander purpose. If you ignore that purpose it can be like a slap in the face to the people it honours. In the case of Remberance Day in Canada or Memorial Day in the US, not commemorating the enormous sacrifice that the warriors of the past have made is  really the same as saying you don’t appreciate it. I’m not saying you have to base everything on the reason for the holiday or add religious significance where none exists, or even honour something you don’t believe deserves it. If you don’t feel right about honouring something, you don’t need to feel obligated to refuse to take the day off. 

How You Can Faithfully Observe Holidays

If you’ve decided you need to more faithfully observe holidays you need to figure out how you’ll do it. For some holidays that’s easy, but others are more difficult. 

The Reason for the “Season”

I said before, every holiday exists for a reason. If you’re going to observe a holiday properly, you need to know what it’s about. Start by doing a little research. A quick Wikipedia search will often give you some good insights but even better are government agencies like Canadian Heritage or organizations related to the holiday in some way, like the Royal Canadian Legion for Remembrance Day. If none of those are helpful, the name of the holiday is usually a pretty good clue, but be careful the name may have been chosen more to sound impressive than represent the meaning of the day. 

You’ll also want to consider what the day means to you personally, especially if most people just treat it as a day off. Many holidays have had their significance expanded on over the millennia, so you can do it too. 

Once you’ve figured out what the holiday means it’ll guide your future observances. 

Have a Party

Parties can be a great way to observe celebratory holidays, like national independence days. You can host one yourself or attend someone else’s. If you host it yourself the theme must be the holiday and you need to base your decor on reminders of its meaning. 

Create a Ritual

A ritual may not be appropriate for all occasions but there’s nothing that more effectively creates solemnity and sacredness. A ritual doesn’t have to be religious in nature unless it’s part of a religious observance. A ritual is simply any act that has no obvious relationship with its effect. Also it’s great to include others in your ritual, especially children. 

When you’re creating your ritual, you’ll want to pay close attention to the symbolism involved. If you include flowers, use flowers that represent something about the holiday. Same goes for whatever colours you give attention to. Even the schedule of your day can have important ritual symbolism. Many in my circles regard having a meal following a funeral to symbolise the continuance of our lives without the deceased.

Stick To It

Once you’ve settled on how you’re going to observe a holiday, you need to try to make it an annual tradition.  They don’t have to be completely non-negotiable but you do need to try.

Include Holidays From Your Own Life

Whoever said only governments and religions can create holidays? Things in your own life deserve the same honour, as long as you don’t try to force them on the general public. You shouldn’t have any difficulty figuring out what they’re about. 

I’ll leave you with a promise to bring you more holiday related articles and the most important rule of all; however you choose to observe a holiday, make it meaningful to you.