Cultural Funerals: Romanian Orthodox Funeral Services

Beliefs Regarding Death

Romanian Orthodox Christians view death as an important step into reaching a superior afterlife. Due to that belief, funeral services are viewed as a much more joyous event that is surrounded by folk tradition as opposed to a more sad event in other Orthodox sects.

Romanian Folk Traditions

Romanians include a lot of their folk traditions when it comes to their funeral services. The ceremonies are rather complex and involve masks, costumes, games and singing. These behaviours used to be part of Romanian traditions before Christian influence, and are still present to this day, however they have been toned down quite a bit. The party like rituals are now condensed to night watches if the family of the deceased choose to have them. The night watch is a wake that takes place during a whole night on the eve of the funeral in order to watch over the body of the deceased and protect it from evil spirits. Romanians refer to the deceased as a “pure and white traveller” since they believe the deceased is on a 40-day journey towards the judgement of God that leads them into the afterlife. Professional performers are often hired in order to lead prayers for the dead. This is done because Romanian folk traditions lead Romanians to believe that the deceased will come back and haunt the family and community if their funeral service is not done properly and with respect. So their traditions are often held in high regards and are respected.

Romanian Funeral Rituals

Romanians have specific rituals when it comes to preparing for the funeral service. For example, it is considered crucial that the body of the deceased is carried into the church before anyone else enters prior to the service starting. The body should be placed in the middle of the church. Some other traditions include having bath towels tied around the arms of the pallbearers and hung from crosses in the church.Candles and handkerchiefs are also handed out to mourners during the ceremony. The handkerchiefs are typically only given to men and are referred to as “homages” which are supposed to be kept and taken home after all services are complete. Crowns play a part in funeral ceremonies as well, they are flowery wreaths that are brought into the church by the mourners are are placed near the coffin in order to decorate it. When the prayer concludes, specific members of the community are designated as crown carriers beforehand carry the crowns and lead the procession out of the church with the casket travelling closely behind them.

Interring the Deceased

The crowns that were mentioned in the previous section are placed on the casket of the deceased before it is lowered and interred tot he earth. After the burial ceremony is complete, a concession table is usually set up at the graveside that offers wine and traditional Romanian foods.