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Funeral and Celebration of Life: A Comparison

When a loved one passes away, we always seek the most perfect way to commemorate their live. Earlier, society was more inclined toward funeral services that are based on religious or cultural traditions as a way to pay the necessary tribute. 

The time has changed now and the world has become less connected to organized religion. As a result, people turned to a more personalized and less formal approach to honoring the lives of their deceased loved ones. Although in recent times, we have seen an increase in the popularity of celebrations of life, there are still many people who want to perform the last rites of their loved ones by following the traditional approach.

When organizing or planning a funeral, one of the major challenges people face is whether to opt for a celebration of life or go for a celebration of life. While the underlying principle with funeral and celebration of life is the same – to say a final goodbye to a family member or a loved one – they both take different approaches to the event. 

What is a Funeral?

A funeral typically refers to a formal ceremonial event, which entails the presence of deceased person’s body. In general, a funeral happens soon after the death of the person. It usually takes place at a house of worship or funeral home in USA. The ceremony follows an order as directed by custom or faith. 

Traditional funerals comprises three main activities, viz., the visitation, the funeral service, and the committal service, which is performed at the graveside. 

  • The Visitation: Held before the funeral – usually on the previous the night or sometimes on the day of funeral – the visitation (aka, viewing) is the time when people come to offer support to the surviving family members and more importantly, to pay their tribute to the deceased person.
  • The Funeral Service: Held at the church or a funeral home in Canada and the United States, the traditional funeral service is managed by an officiant, usually the funeral director or a pastor. This person follows quite an obvious funeral order of service, including the singing of hymns along with Bible recitations, invocations, prayers and Scripture readings. 
  • The Committal Service: This is held at the cemetery, following a respectful vehicle procession from the venue where the funeral was held. Here also, guests are requested to take part in the very same activities organized at the funeral home in Boston or elsewhere. 

What is a Celebration of Life?

Broadly speaking, a celebration of life is a ceremonial event, which is designed to honor the life of a person who is no longer alive. Typically, it takes place in the absence of the body of the deceased person, and doesn’t follow any specific religious traditions and requirements. 

Moreover, these are no pre-defined rules as to where and when to organize the event. These is also no restriction in terms of the elements to be included. Rather, how the event will take place depends completely on the wishes of the deceased individual, or his/her surviving family members, relatives, and friends. 

Similarities between Funeral and Celebration of Life

While there are differences in the way how a funeral and a celebration of life take place, they both are organized to share a common loss. Both events serve the following purposes:

  • Helping the grieving family, publicly acknowledge the death of one of their loved one
  • Showing support to the bereaved family by having them surrounded by caring neighbors, friends, and workmates. 
  • Commemorating the memory of the deceased individual

How are Funeral and Celebration of Life Different?

The basic difference between the two is that a funeral is deeply rooted in religion or tradition, whereas a celebration of life is more personalized and informal. A funeral, in general, highlights religious rites, customs, and rituals that reflect grief. This doesn’t mean that the life of the deceased individual is not honored, but the storytelling or eulogy is not central to the event. 

On the other hand, a celebration of life, highlights the life of the deceased person in a joyous and positive manner. A celebration of life also offers room for being creative while planning the event. What would happen at a celebration of life doesn’t follow a pre-defined order and depends completely on the people organizing it.

Which Is Better: Funeral or Celebration of Life?

Customization of the funeral service is an evolving trend in the funeral sector. In future, we are less likely to see less variations between different types of funeral services. Even today, it is pretty common to find funeral services that blend the facets of the traditional funeral and the more personalized celebration of life. Remember that when it is about designing an end-of-life event, there is nothing right or wrong. The best service is the one that meets the expectations of your loved one and your family.

  • Lois Paterson for FHS CLASS of1954 2 years ago

    On behalf of the Fredericto High School of 1954 I send our condolences to the family and friends of Beau Cain. He was the patriarch of our class and we all ,dearly, remember him. He always attended our many class reunions and we had our last visit with him at our 65 th fall luncheon in 2019. It might be the last get together for all of us..It was so good to have him remember us,as well. Lois (McFarlane) Paterson

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