The funeral is a civil or religious ritual which is celebrated following the death of a person. Specific customs and traditions related to this event vary according to the cultural traditions, religious beliefs and desires of the deceased and the next-of-kin. It is celebrated with the participation of family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, etc. and is often chaired by a socially, politically or morally relevant authority (among these of course ministers of the faith). Funeral ceremonies may be civil or religious.
Civil ceremonies are just as adamant in their message to the community to respect the dead and the prescribed symbolic rites are likewise performed.
As for religious rites, the Christian rite is the most widespread in Italy. Italian Catholic tradition generally breaks down the funeral into three main parts:
The “visitation” or “wake” is held in the presence of the deceased prior to burial. During this time the body of the deceased is on display in the coffin. It is open to family, friends and visitors and there is normally no strict protocol to follow. In the most solemn cases visitors are requested to sign a book of condolences. The wake ends with a prayer, usually the Holy Rosary, recited by a priest in church or at the deceased’s home.
The “funeral service” is held when the priest officiates the funeral Mass in church and the coffin is sprinkled with holy water and incensed. Afterward, a friend or relative of the deceased may read a funeral eulogy about the life and works of the departed.
The “graveside service” is held usually beside the grave or chapel or near the crematorium, where the body of the deceased is then buried or cremated. Often funeral processions from the church to the cemetery are headed by cars containing the mourners and followed by the hearse and friends of the family. At the end of the ceremony members of the family may respond to the condolences of visitors.