Funeral Services

Jewish Funeral Customs and Traditions

August 26th, 2011

Judaism teaches that traditional funerals are to be within the days immediately flowing death. There are certain circumstances, such as waiting for traveling family members, that are often allowed, but not encouraged. Cremation is often avoided in the Jewish faith, as to not disturb the natural decomposition of the body. The beliefs and customs taught here by Judaism are based on the Torah. The Jewish philosophy is that one should embrace life and accept death. And that living a praiseworthy life will prepare you for the afterlife.

Funeral Preparation

Dating back to Biblical times, earth burials have become the most commonly practiced burials in traditional Judaism. A Viewing of the deceased is not a custom that Judaism allows. It is thought that looking at person who cannot look back is disrespectful, which is why most Jewish funerals are closed casket services. Unless local laws require embalming, it is often avoided. A simple wood casket made from pine or walnut wood containing no metal is used to carry out the earth burial.

A purification of the deceased body is done by The Chevra Kadisha. This is a sacred society made up of a group of men and women who perform the ritual of cleansing and preparing the body for burial. A white gown with no pockets or decorations, called a Tachrichim, is worn for burial. It symbolizes that when mortals leave this world they take nothing with them, and judgment from God is based on merits and good deeds, not materialistic belongings.


In Judaism a mourner is considered to be Kaddish related. This means that the mourners are obligated to observe and conduct the rites of mourning. Parents, spouses, siblings and children of the deceased are considered mourners and it is their responsibility to make sure that proper Jewish funeral rites are carried out.

The Service

Traditional Jewish funerals take place in a temple, synagogue or graveside. Funeral guests dress conservatively. Men wear a head covering called a kippah or yarmulke, and most often a suite and tie. Women are not required to wear head coverings, however, they do not wear short sleeves, short skirts or open toed shoes.

You will notice that most Jewish funerals will not have many flower arrangements other than one or two small casket tributes. Most Jewish funerals ask that a charitable donation be made instead of sending flowers.
Family members (mourners) will more than likely be in a waiting room or in a vehicle prior to the service. This is because it is disrespectful to talk to the mourners before the burial. No condolences are to be offered until after the service is over.

Traditional Jewish services usually last about 20 minutes and consist of several Scripture readings, Psalms, prayers and a eulogy. The Rabbi will lead the congregation through the service beginning with the cutting of a black ribbon. Participation is encouraged throughout the prayers.

Prior to or after the service the mourners perform the ritual K’riah. It is an ancient custom, traditionally tearing garments, but has now evolved into attaching a black ribbon to the outside of the clothing worn by the mourners. A special prayer is said during the cutting of the ribbon: ‘Dayan Ha’emet‘ meaning ‘Blessed is the judge of truth’.

  • The ribbon is worn on the left side if they are mourning a parent.
  • It is worn on the right side for all other Kaddish relatives.
  • The ribbons are traditionally worn for 7 days. However, the mourners of a parent wear it for 30 days.


Chairs surround the burial site for the mourners to sit. Friends and family will stand or sit surrounding the family during the burial. Prayers are said along with Chesed Shel Emet which is considered the greatest act of kindness to the departed. Where mourners and guests take part in the burial by placing a handful or shovel full of dirt or rocks in the grave.

A Shura is then formed by the guests at the service. It is a double line facing each other forming a pathway for the mourners to pass through and receive words of condolences. This will be the first time that mourners will receive any comforting words from guests at the service. A traditional expression often said to the family during the Shura is “‘Ha-Makom yenahem etkhem b’tokh sha ar aveilei Tzion v Yerushalayim’ meaning ‘May the Omnipresent comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem’.

  • Washing your hands when leaving the cemetery is customary in the Judaism. You may do this at home or before you enter the Shiva home.

Shiva Home

Following Jewish tradition a Shiva is held at the home of the mourners. This is one of the most meaningful traditions in the Jewish faith. The community will offer a meal for the mourners at their home. Family and guests will attend to console and express sympathy to the family.

  • The Shiva is a seven-day period for mourning beginning the day of burial. Mourners will stay home during this time. The only time a mourner will leave home is on Shabbat to attend a service in the Synagogue. Everyday during the seven days there will be three prayer services at the home when the mourners will recite the Kaddish prayer.

During the seven days of Shiva it is appropriate to visit the home of the bereaved. You may notice that mirrors are covered, candles are lit, men are unshaven and women are not wearing makeup. This is a tradition that symbolizes the great disruption the death has brought to the family.


Military Funeral Honors and Customs

August 18th, 2011

United States Veterans are given honorable, military funerals to commemorate the time they spent while serving our country. Family and friends are comforted in the traditions and respectful services created in honor of their loved one. Serving our country in the military is incredibly honorable. So, with respect to the fallen soldiers who have made this sacrifice, we salute them with tradition, respect and honor in the way of Military Honors.

Military funerals can take place at private cemeteries and national cemeteries dedicated to fallen soldiers across the country. There are 128 national cemeteries and 33 soldier’s lots through out our nation alone. Religious traditions are often tied into the service to honor both the deceased’s religion and military duty.

Draping the Casket with the National Flag

The tradition of draping the American Flag over the casket of a fallen soldier began during the Napoleonic War between 1796 and 1815. The deceased were carried off the battlefield covered in flags to honor their sacrifice. This practice continues to this day, but instead of several small flags, a large American Flag is draped over the top of the casket.

A United States flag is provided, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran who served honorably in the U. S. Armed Forces.

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Hispanic Funeral Traditions

July 20th, 2011

The funeral traditions of the Spanish-speaking cultures are similar, but have many differences and variations from each other. For the purpose of this article, we are generalizing the similarities of customs rooted in Hispanic cultures to give you a brief description of what to expect at a Hispanic Funeral.

Hispanic Funeral Traditions Are Primarily Catholic

Because of the how deeply-rooted Catholicism is in Hispanic heritages, even non-Catholics include Catholic traditions in their funerals.

The Hispanic culture accepts death as part of life. It is the end of the life in the flesh, and a beginning of the life in spirit. Catholic Hispanics celebrate one’s death, because the soul is going “home” once the body has died. The funeral process doesn’t begin after death, but before one passes.

  • Whenever the situation allows, the funeral process begins on the death-bed. A priest will give the dying person their Last Rites, which consist of confession (if possible), communion and pastoral blessing.
  • A family member will stay with the body of the deceased until the preparations begin for the funeral services.
  • A traditional Hispanic Funeral will consist of 3-4 days of services and vigils to honor and pray for the departed soul.
  • A Catholic Priest will lead the services for the funeral. Starting with the wake.

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Traditional Asian Funeral Etiquette

July 16th, 2011

Asian Funeral with Alter

Funeral customs vary greatly in the Asian culture.  The following article refers mostly to traditional Chinese funeral customs.  

If you are attending an Asian Funeral, there are a few rules of etiquette that are very important to follow. The burial process of someone who has passed is taken very seriously in Chinese society. Asian culture teaches that someone who is buried without the proper funeral customs will bring bad luck and disaster to the family. Cremation among traditional Asians is very rare.

Asian culture uses beauty and respect throughout their funeral services. Every detail is covered and has special meaning behind it. The traditions they use have been passed from generation to generation to make the end-of-life transition more beautiful.

What To Expect When Attending An Asian Funeral

The funeral process and rites are based on how traditional the family is, as well as age, social status, and marital status.

Tradition teaches that an elder is not to show respect to someone who is younger. So, if the funeral is for a younger person, their body cannot be brought home (as is custom for an older person). This also goes for an infant or child. The services will be held at the funeral parlor, in a way similar to western funerals.  Since no respect can be shown, there are no vigils, prayers or offerings made, the service and burial will be made in silence.

Wake or Viewing at An Asian Funeral

Traditional Asian funerals will be held at the home of the deceased. If the death occurred inside the home, the casket and service will be held inside. If the death occurred outside of the home, the casket and service will be in a courtyard near the home. Wreaths, flowers and a picture of the deceased will sit on top of the coffin.

Traditional funerals last for 49 days, with the first 7 being the most important. However, if the family doesn’t have the financial means, the funeral will last 3-5 days with the first day being the most significant.
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What To Expect At A Funeral

July 10th, 2011

Funerals are always a difficult and emotional occasion. Many people get nervous or anxious when attending a funeral. There are some basic principles when it comes to one’s behavior and etiquette throughout the funeral process.

Condolence Visits

If you are a close friend or family member of the deceased, it is proper to pay a visit to the home of the family members before the funeral, to offer your help and share fond memories.

Before a Wake

A wake is a time when family and close friends come together before a funeral to spend time in remembrance of the deceased. Many people will offer to bring food, watch children, clean house or help with any of the planning.

Expressing Your Sympathy

Sending flowers to the church, funeral home or the family’s home is a well-known way of expressing your sympathy. When words can’t say it, flowers will show it.

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How to Create a Meaningful Eulogy

June 22nd, 2011

What is a Eulogy?

A eulogy is a heartfelt, good-bye tribute to honor and celebrate the life of the deceased. This tribute addresses not only to the person who has died, but to the friends and family that have gathered at the service.

Man Giving A Eulogy At A Military FuneralA Eulogy Includes:

  • An introduction to the person’s life
  • Details, such as family, friends, interests, passions, likes and dislikes
  • Significant memories and achievements of the deceased
  • Scriptures, poetry and favorite stories written or enjoyed by the deceased are commonly read

It does not have to be perfect, the most touching and meaningful eulogies come from the heart. Eulogies are not a biography, rather a loving and heartfelt speech that expresses the feelings and experiences shared between the person giving it and the deceased. Remember, whatever you write and deliver in the eulogy will be appreciated by the people in attendance.

How To Write A Eulogy

1.) Recall memories: Think about the relationship you shared, where you met, what you did together, humorous or touching memories and what you will miss the most.

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Legacy Funeral and Cremation Care

June 7th, 2011

A Helping Hand When Planning A Funeral

Legacy Funeral & Cremation - San Diego CALooking for some insight on what drives the largest funeral home in San Diego, CA to provide a very personalized service for its customers?

After years of building a reputation as exceptional and extremely customer-centric, Legacy Funeral and Cremation Care is committed to highly personalized memorials. Whether you use Legacy or another funeral home, their approach to funeral planning and services is beneficial for every family planning a funeral.

The funeral directors at Legacy were kind enough to discuss their philosophy with FSN Funeral Homes.

What is Legacy’s  approach when dealing with families during a time of loss?

Providing as much help as possible is our main concern. Families are dealing with many stressful and emotional situations during this time. If we can help eliminate some of these stresses, families can concentrate on healing. One of the most important qualities a funeral home should have is helpfulness.

How does Legacy help families who are planning a funeral?
Assisting families through every aspect of the funeral planning process is a major part of what we do for our clients. We help them to navigate the many funeral planning steps from paper work and filing government forms, to helping create a memorial service as unique as their loved one.

Every client works with a funeral arranger who guides them through the personal decisions needed to arrange the funeral service and burial. During the funeral arrangement conference, we will help families handle essential paperwork, such as the death certificate, obituary, and insurance matters; decide what personal funeral service and burial options are needed; and what specific personalized elements should be included in the memorial service. From start to finish, every family will receive personalized care from our experienced staff. During a time of loss, families need guidance more than anything.

How does Legacy guide families in creating a unique memorial service?
Every family is different, with their own traditions, religious views and distinctive traits that make them unique. During a funeral, family members come together in their own way to celebrate with joyous memories, tears and even a few laughs. We encourages families to create a memorial service just as individual and special as their loved one.

Organizing those personal elements is what makes a truly unique and memorable funeral service. Gathering and assembling items can be comforting, yet difficult for families. Guiding families through the process of creating a memory board, encouraging stories and memories during the service and displaying items that reflect the life of their loved-one is our way of helping them during this trying time. Inviting families to share their stories and memories as a way to facilitate healing and closure should be a part of every funeral service.

How does Legacy help comfort families and facilitate closure?
Legacy Funeral & Cremation - San Diego CACreating a relaxed environment that encourages personal reflection time helps promote the healing process. With our private sitting room, intimate chapel and viewing area, families are surrounded with a comforting atmosphere. These amenities, along with a large kitchen, give families the ability to create a soothing home-away-from-home experience. Allowing them to prepare or serve food for immediate family and close friends, or relax in a serene space is our way of helping them through a difficult time.

Every family planning a funeral should receive the same care, consideration and help clients of Legacy Funeral and Creation Care receive.

If you’re not in the San Diego area, try these tips for finding a funeral home to meet your needs:

  • Well-known In The Community
  • Have A Good Reputation
  • Good Location
  • Reasonable Pricing
  • Honest and Compassionate Staff
  • Peaceful Environment
  • Services Available To Your Religious or Cultural Preferences

Visitation: Healing For Everyone

December 28th, 2010

Memories Of A Dear Friend!

My friend, Patty Chaffin, died a few years ago after a long battle with cancer. Let me tell you a little bit about Patty. Patty and I met at a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp (RYLA). Patty was this beautiful redhead with a loud voice and even louder laugh. She was vibrant and full of energy. Everyone who met Patty instantly liked her and most of the time she instantly liked them.

We were both counselors and eventually after a couple of years, Patty became the head counselor. She was fabulous and the teenagers loved her. Patty discovered during this time she had cancer. She came back the next year as head counselor with wigs of every color in the rainbow.

At the end of camp, we have what is called RYLA’s Own. This is where the kids in teams or individually do cheers, songs, skits or whatever to describe their experience at camp. It is amazing to see what these kids come up with and most are outright hilarious. Justin, one of our youth who happened to work part-time at a pharmacy, came up to the microphone. I thought, here we go, this will be funny. It wasn’t. Justin spoke from the heart. He told the group that if they didn’t realize it Patty didn’t feel great. As a matter of fact, her health outlook was pretty grim. This sixteen year old boy with tears running down his cheeks thanked Patty for her positive outlook and energetic passion. There was not a dry eye at RYLA.

Visitation: Honoring The True Spirit.

Okay, that was a great story. What is the point and what does this have to do with visitation? Well, Patty eventually died. However, Patty had one of the most magnificent visitations I have ever seen. Patty wanted a party and that is what she had!

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Funeral Pre-Planning

October 28th, 2009

Funeral pre-planning or “pre-need” funeral planning gives you the ability to arrange your funeral in advance without the added burden of urgency during a time of great stress and grief. With funeral pre-planning, you will be able to make your wishes known to your family and relieve them from the burden of arranging your funeral service and burial.

There are three major elements involved in pre-planning a funeral: financing, the funeral service and the burial location. When pre-planning, you can focus on one element, all the elements, or parts of any of the elements.


Determining how to pay for your funeral is the most significant aspect of a funeral. Many families choose to pre-fund their funerals

Pre-funding is arranged by purchasing or instituting one of the following:

  • Burial Insurance
  • Final Life Insurance
  • Pre-need Insurance
  • Annuities
  • Funeral Saving Accounts
  • Life Insurance
  • Trust Funds

Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages. Before deciding which option suits your situation best, talk with a financial planner or funeral director to obtain all the facts including tax-liability and risk.

Funeral Services

Pre-planning the funeral service involves deciding several of the funeral service details such as the following:

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