Every culture has its significant history when it comes to honoring the dead. From ancient times, several countries have been known to have their ways of conducting funeral rites. The Welsh traditions are very different from the norm of how funerals are performed in the western world. While individual beliefs and family traditions may vary, the most common traditions for how the Welsh care for their dead is the same.
At least 58% of Welsh follow Christianity when it comes to their religious beliefs. The Church of Wales plays a predominant role in the Christian faith of the Welsh population. The Church of Wales was not always an essential part of Wales. Till 1914, the Church of England was the governing body for the Christians in Wales after which it was brought down and succeeded by the Church of Wales.
A Typical Funeral Service
By tradition, when a Welsh person passed away, the body is washed by the family. After laying the cleaned body on a table, they covered every mirror in the home and closed all the curtains. Sweet smelling herbs that are traditional to the Welsh are left in the room where the deceased is left to lie. Whatever happens, the dead are never left unattended during the entire time; the body is in the home. In the western culture, A Wake is held to remember the dead and share food with those attending the funeral service. In the Welsh culture, The Wake is called as Gwylnos and happens the night before the burial takes place. All attendees of the Gwylnos, eat bread together, drink wine and mourn the passing of their countrymen. The funeral custom is to give gingerbread or other gifts to the family who has lost a loved one.
Just before the burial, everyone gathered is offered a piece of cake with mulled wine. The family of the dead carry the corpse to the burial grounds after sharing food and wine. All attendees of the actual burial service wear black gloves to show their respect and share the loss of the loved one. Prayers and hymns are chanted during the burial as well. The unique part of the culture is the part when everyone places a silver coin on the shovel of the gravedigger. The coins are symbolic of everyone paying a small contribution toward the costs of the funeral and the efforts of the gravedigger.
Funerals in Wales Today
Today, the Welsh conduct their funeral services differently. They have private viewings of the body by members of the family, while everyone gathered at the home of the deceased to say prayers and sing hymns. The songs and prayers continue well after the burial has been completed as well. Every year, gathering together and remembering the meaningful lives that they have led and sharing of food and wine celebrate the anniversary of the dead. Funeral services are conducted at different locations according to the family’s wishes, and the lighting of the Paschal Candle along with the setting up other meaningful items commemorates the funeral.