It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, the perfect time to share some important facts about this population’s unique cultural traditions regarding grief and loss.
Brimming with vibrancy and rituals that honor a rich heritage, the Latino culture is deeply rooted in faith and family. This reverence extends to customs surrounding funerals and burials. With traditions dating back through centuries of cultural influence from more than 20 countries, saying goodbye to a loved one is a touching time that’s steeped in prayer, devotion, and family gatherings.
Here are some fascinating facts about Latino funeral customs.
Death is regarded as the soul’s return home.
The Hispanic culture accepts death as a part of the cycle of life, and the soul’s return home is seen as a cause to celebrate. The funeral process doesn’t begin after death but before one passes. A priest gives the ailing person their Last Rites, consisting of confession, communion, and a blessing before their soul moves on.
The visitation is an extended social event.
The visitation is a time to remember the departed loved one while spending time with family and friends. It often begins later in the day, lasting four hours or more. Some visitations continue well into the night and can even extend overnight. Delicious food such as pan dulce or pastelitos and coffee is often served. Visitations are usually held at a funeral home but some families prefer to host them in their homes.
Funerals are deeply religious.
Many Hispanics are Catholic, and Catholic funeral and burial rites often influence the funeral services of those of other faiths, as well. While the grief and sadness are very real, the Catholic belief in eternal life softens the blow for those left behind. The funeral service usually includes a full Mass dedicated to the departed loved one and a rosary may be said, as well.
Cemetery traditions are of the utmost importance.
Following the funeral ceremony, the burial takes place with family and friends in attendance for the interment. Burial practices follow the same etiquette as other Catholic funerals. A procession goes to the cemetery where the casket is lowered into the ground. Family and close friends may read a eulogy at this time or say a few words in honor of the deceased loved one. Because of the Catholic influence, cremation is not a common practice in the Latino culture. For those who do opt for cremation, families usually bury the cremated remains at a cemetery or church to follow the Vatican’s guidelines on the conservation of the ashes. Music may be played at the gravesite, sometimes by live mariachis. Afterward, family members gather for a meal, prayer, and to share fond memories of the departed.
Honoring the one who has passed continues long after the funeral is over.
Novenarios: For nine consecutive days following the funeral, family and friends pray for the soul and eternal rest of the loved one. This can take place at a church or the family’s home.
Anniversary of death: A Mass is set up on the anniversary date of the death in the name of the loved one. Sometimes, there is a reception with food afterward.
Special Days: Within the Hispanic culture, death is revered and holidays are set aside to pay special respect to the dead. Celebrations often depend on the country of origin.
All Souls Day (November 1st): Families pray, remember loved ones, attend Mass and visit the cemetery to spruce up their loved one’s memorial.
Día de Los Muertos (November 2nd): Families visit the cemetery with flowers, food, and music to celebrate those who have passed on.
Evan W. Smith Funeral Services specializes in Latino funeral and burial traditions. Our bilingual professionals are here to guide you in planning a memorable funeral that honors your family customs and embraces your proud heritage. For more information, please reach out to our compassionate funeral directors anytime.
About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit www.ewsmithfs.com.