You may see some Southern funeral traditions at funeral homes in Burtonsville, MD, but if you go further down in the American South, you will see customs that have been passed down through generations and remain to this day, even though more and more people living in the South are not originally from there.
One funeral custom is the South is bringing food to the family of the deceased person. It’s a way of expression condolences without words, but it’s also a practical realization that the family needs to eat for several days and preparing food or going out to eat is the last thing on their minds. Southerners are generous with their food offerings, bringing soups, casseroles, biscuits, fried chicken, and desserts. Doughnuts are also a mainstay in food delivered to a family that’s grieving, since it’s a quick way to fuel with a cup of coffee in the morning while the family is working with the funeral home to make funeral preparations for their loved one. Southerners also bring salads, salad dressing, and juice and soda, ensuring that they cover all the nutritional needs of the family.
It is also a common funeral custom in the South to have a potluck after the graveside service. Usually it will be hosted by a family member who is not part of the immediate family who has lost their loved one or it will be hosted by the church that the deceased attended. These potlucks put on a spread of quintessential Southern comfort food and they offer an informal gathering where the family can find comfort and support through memories and stories of their loved one.
New Orleans, the home of all that’s jazz, has a funeral custom known as the “Second Line.” When musicians or other prominent people die, New Orleans native musicians pick up their trumpets, tubas, and trombones to play as they dance. No funeral dirges here, as up-tempo, jazz-laced songs like “When the Saints Go Marching In” are played while the procession follows the funeral hearse and goes to the cemetery or funeral home. The famed Preservation Hall Jazz band has had, in the past few years, ceremonial second lines for David Bowie and Prince.
Extreme personalization is another Southern funeral custom. People in the South often get buried with unusual things they love. For instance, one man was buried with Mountain Dew, his favorite soda, while another man was buried with what he requested: a watermelon and a six-pack of Budweiser beer.
Southerners also memorialize their dead in interesting ways. They are very good about keeping graves up and flowers fresh, but it’s not unusual to see lit, live Christmas trees fueled by generators at graves during the holidays.
There are two graves that get unusual attention each year. At William Faulkner’s grave in Oxford, Mississippi, visitors routinely leave full bottles of whiskey (Faulkner’s adult drink of choice). In Baltimore, Maryland, for 60 years, a mystery person left three roses and a bottle of cognac (Poe was an alcoholic, and his death was related, in part to overconsumption) at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe on his birthday. When the tradition stopped, Baltimore stepped in to resume it.
If you’re interested in finding out more about funeral customs at funeral homes in Burtonsville, MD, our experienced staff at Donald V. Borgwardt Funeral Home, P.A. can help you. You can visit our funeral home at 4400 Powder Mill Rd., Beltsville, MD, 20705, or you can contact us today at (301) 937-1707.