The next few posts are going to be about cremation and its effect on American funeral rituals, with data showing how we are changing our funeral practices (and how things may continue to change in the future). To kick off this discussion, here is a very brief capsule overview of why cremation is an important topic:
Cremation has changed the way Americans do funeral rituals. The changes could be summed up under the general category of “short cuts.” There are two main areas of these ritual efficiencies, which the previous reviews of research studies have dealt with in part, but which I am going to address in more depth in this and upcoming posts.
First, cremation allows survivors flexibility in holding ceremonies, because they can have the body cremated and then not have to plan the ceremony according to any set schedule. Apart from being cremated, the body of a deceased loved one can’t really be left around for very long: according to the twentieth-century funeral model, the entire process of preparing the body for viewing, holding the ceremonies, and getting the body to the cemetery was only a window of a few days to a week at most. The funeral home had to do almost everything, and the family and other survivors had to work mostly within the funeral home’s time frame. With cremation, the family can take the few steps needed to have the body cremated, and then they can do anything they want, whenever they want. They never have to go back to the funeral home again.