The notions that come to mind when we think of a funeral are often an emotional parallel to those felt by anyone else. The loss of another human being is a similar feeling for anyone of any religion. It is a feeling that sets in deep. Perhaps this is why we go to such great lengths to provide elaborate and elegant funeral ceremonies for the dead – often to the tune of thousands of dollars. Well, the Amish do not think this way. Neither in life, nor in death do they link materialism with human value or individual worth. The more expensive the flowers or elegant the funeral hall does not mean for them what it means for us. I think that the simplistic Amish traditions of burial are as emotionally sincere as the elaborate ceremonies of some outsiders.
It may seem very strange, but this is how the Amish put their dead to rest: The ceremony is somber and simple. They have no eulogy. They do not decorate the casket with pictures or flowers. They use only plain, wooden boxes. The caskets the Amish use are virtually always built within the community. In accordance with Amish customs, there is sometimes an embalming process allowed, but no make-up.
The funeral of an Amish individual will usually take place three days after his or her death. The funeral is held at the home of the deceased. The graves of the Amish are dug with the bare hands of their mourners. The body is buried in a local cemetery and marked only by a small gravestone. No names or other markers are made to identify the dead below. In Amish communities, a map of the cemetery is maintained by the local ministers to keep track of whose body is buried in which burial plot.
It is just a different culture, unlike the Amish, the majority of Americans hold funerals in the manner that they do, feel that giving more proves the amount of love they had for the deceased. Common Americans want to give as much as they can to their loved ones who have passed on – giving them things such as adorned caskets, statuesque tombstones and hundreds of flowers. There is no shame in wanting to mark the significance of a great loss: to create a funeral people will not soon forget.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that there is something wrong with a simplistic ritual, either – at least not in a culture where emotion, or anything else of importance, is unconnected with material things. There is not one right way or one wrong way to bury the dead, you see. It is simply a matter of established principles within that culture. The Amish do not decorate themselves in their lives, nor do they decorate their dead in order to announce the lamentation of his or her passing.
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