Cultural: Funerals in Poland

We went to a funeral quite recently I thought I would share with you how they work here in Poland. I'm hardly an expert on funerals in the US, much less one here in Poland, but I have been to a few.

I've been to a few that aren't Catholic, but this will be about a typical Roman Catholic funeral.

First of all, they are usually held in a Roman Catholic church with a graveside short service wtih a few words - that part is similar to the US as far as I can tell.

The one we just went to went like this - 

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As we walked in we saw that the family was seated in the aisle between the two rows of pews. This way they were seated where they could see everything the best. In the case of this funeral, they had cremated the body, so there was just a rather small urn instead of a huge casket in the aisle in front of the family. When people came in, they came up and put their flowers down by the urn/casket and went and sat down.  (I had opted to do some cooking for my friend in lieu of flowers - as is our tradition in our Baptist churches in the states). Truthfully I didn't think about flowers til it was too late.

The funeral itself was a combination of special music by an unseen soloist, some responsive speaking and readings by the congregation and the priest, a mass - where people had the opportunity to take communion  - at least the bread part. Here in Poland only the priest takes the wine - people just watch him. 

I was kind of blocked by some flowers, so it was hard for me to see, but I've seen it before.  The priest had a sort of sermon of sorts. It was all pretty short, at least for a Polish funeral, as my friend, the daughter, asked for a short one. Because the echo is so strong in a typical Catholic church, I didn't really understand most of what was said.

There did not seem to be a lot of personal things said about the man nor were there any anectdotes by anyone else in the family about the man. It was more of a formality than a personal tribute/memory. It could be because he didn't go to church regularly and the priest didn't really know him well.

After the service which lasted less than an hour, we went outside and I hugged my friend and told her we'd go to the cemetery after we took my son and his wife back to the train station as they needed to return to Warsaw.

 The cemetery or funeral home workers have already put the urn down in the grave and they are arranging the flowers.

The cemetery or funeral home workers have already put the urn down in the grave and they are arranging the flowers.

Then we went to the cemetery where the priest spoke a few words. We all stood around and watched as the workers put the urn down in the ground and covered the spot with a concrete slab. Then they put the flowers from the church on top. Then the cemetery workers left and people just stood around and looked at the flowers. At that point we left since almost everyone else was family and we weren't.

I was there because it was  my friend's dad - not because I actually knew the man well - though I had met him - in fact, we have some rather decorative grass that he gave me several years ago.

Shortly after that, some of the family went to a restaurant and some went home. My friend went on home as she didn't have the strength to go to a restaurant. (The funeral had been held at 12 noon, so people were no doubt getting hungry!)  

 This is how the new graves always look here.  Piled with flowers! Lots and lots of them!

This is how the new graves always look here.  Piled with flowers! Lots and lots of them!

And that's how this funeral looked This one was the funeral of an  older man who didn't have a lot of family so it was sparsely attended.

I've been to a few Polish non Catholic funerals (evangelical Christians such as Baptist or Brethren) and the feeling/atmosphere was quite different.  Since about 90% of the Polish people profess to be Roman Catholic, however, a Roman Catholic funeral would be typical for most people.

One thing here - they have the cemeteries divided up so there is a Catholic section and a Protestant section. That was a bit different for me as I wasn't aware that we had that in the states, though I think they used to be that way. Nowadays in FL, anyway, you just buy your plot in the cemetery wherever you want.

Also, here, the graves stick up above the ground and are not flush with the ground with a flat marker. Also, many times several family members are in one grave - so they are deep and they get buried on top of one another - separated by a concrete slab.

And that's the very "short" of a funeral we attended recently.

Have a great day wherever you are reading this!


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