What is a Panachida funeral

Funeral rites

Entry information

Funeral rites are rituals that revolve around the funeral of a person. Their popularity is increasingly declining, the consistency in the exercise is less and less given. Due to the increasing average age of people and the steadily improving medical care, people are no longer confronted with death as often. The personal relationship is no longer given and in a growing service society it is not difficult to pass this unpleasant burden on to someone else. However, there are still certain standards that must be observed and adhered to in both secular and ecclesiastical burials.


Before death: anointing of the sick

As a devout Catholic you go through numerous sacraments at every important stage in your life. Also at the end of every life there is a Christian sacrament, which is supposed to make the path to God easier for the believer. The last unction, nowadays more commonly known as anointing of the sick, proceeds according to a fixed scheme. Because one can now receive this sacrament more often and would like to encourage the believers to perceive this sacrament, more emphasis is placed on using the term “anointing of the sick”. The priest and the relatives who have ordered the anointing of the sick in the name of the dying man make their way to him, usually accompanied by bells and acolytes. First, the priest takes confession from the dying so that he can ascend to heaven free from sin, while it is customary for the relatives to say prayers separately as well. Then the last communion, also called Viaticum, takes place as a so-called food for the journey. This is followed by the actual anointing, in which the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands and, in the case of men, the legs, are coated crosswise with oil. This is to lessen the sins committed and to make the grace of God evident to the dying.

Entry of death

As soon as the dying person has reached the point at which it becomes clear that death will soon occur, the relatives present begin to venerate various saints, e.g. St. Barbara or the Archangel, as well as to say prayers. Above all, the Lord's Prayer is prayed as a prayer for death. The lighting of a death candle, usually the baptismal or first communion candle, or, if these are no longer preserved, a candle, preferably consecrated in Rome, is also practiced at this point in time. The dying person should at best hold the candle in his right hand or at least be illuminated by its light, as a sign of inner enlightenment and relief on the way into eternity. Most of the time, the deceased receives his death cross, which is usually already above his bed, in his folded hands or on his chest. This also creates a reference to the death of Jesus Christ.

After death

As soon as death has occurred, according to the Catholic faith, the dead person is sprinkled with holy water, his death candle continues to burn and the relatives draw a cross on his forehead. It is quite common to pray during the entire period, the Our Father and the creed are very common nowadays. In the case of very devout Christians or the elderly, special prayers addressed to cartridges or saints are also common. One act that is independent of the level of belief is to close one's eyes and mouth. This is usually carried out by a very close relative and, according to popular belief, serves to ensure that the dead find their rest and do not wander restlessly around the earth as "revenants" or "after-eaters". However, since this thought is no longer so widespread these days, this act is rather carried out out of respect for the dead and as a dignified departure.

Preparing the deceased

First of all, it is important that the deceased is appropriately dressed and that certain hygiene regulations are adhered to. A close relative, the spouse or undertaker, is mainly responsible for getting dressed. Since more and more people do not die at home or funeral parlors facilitate essential processes, the deceased are less and less kept in their own house and therefore not prepared there. If the wedding robe is still preserved and still fits the dead person, it will be put on him. If this is not the case and there is no special funeral robe or shroud, a festive Sunday robe is usually used. The shroud was once a common trousseau or wedding present in rural areas, but is no longer available in every household today. First of all, the deceased person is washed and, if necessary, shaved and coiffed. Although this is not stipulated by the church anywhere, this tradition is adhered to for reasons of hygiene and respect for the dead. Care is also taken to ensure that the deceased is not adorned too opulently, modesty and adornment are strongly preferred, except for a rosary around the hands or a cross, the deceased should not have anything with them. Accordingly, a woman, for example, usually does without jewelry and accessories. The hair is often worn open and the wedding rings should also be removed, since the covenant made before God with the partner has now been ended by death. Elaborate make-up and, in some cases, shoes are also dispensed with, so that the dead do not feel constricted on the way to the gentlemen. However, this is not a rule and is handled individually. If the deceased is an already baptized child, the christening robe is put on. Basically, the color "white" dominates as a symbol for purity and as a reference to baptism.


After the death has occurred, it is up to the family of the deceased to report it to the community or other relatives. This is either the task of the relatives, the neighbors or, in more rural regions, often the corpse bitter or corpse announcer. Since it is quite common to join fraternities or associations that make it easier to deal with this painful loss and the organization of such a stressful ceremony, members take care of each other to disseminate information about death and burial. This professional way of dealing with death is of course an option; in the country, the profession of death announcer has a long tradition. Mainly older women, preferably poor widows, or older men go from door to door free of charge and announce death. If they are laid out in your own house or if the funeral date has already been set, please inform us of this as well. Since these people mostly belonged to the lower social class, they were often given food and a small reward.

Changes in the house of the dead

After death, every mirror in the deceased's room is draped, removed or turned upside down. This is based on many different popular beliefs. It was assumed, for example, that the person who looks after the dead in the mirror and sees the face of the dead person is the next one who follows the deceased into death, a further thesis is that one saw the mirror as the gate to the devil and gave him access to the dead and wanted to close his soul. However, these are just a few of the numerous theories. The clock is also usually stopped. There are several reasons for this anchored in popular belief. For example, to be able to say the exact time of death or to prevent death from doing its thing. Another common tradition is opening the windows, especially those in the dying room. Mainly, of course, this is used to ventilate the room, but also to facilitate the exit of the soul from the body of the deceased and as a connection to heaven.

Laying out

The location of the farewell is chosen depending on whether the deceased died in their own house or in another place and the family decides to be laid out with relatives or in a public place. Since in the last century, thanks to the emergence of service companies and a general distancing from death, less takes place in the family environment, laying out is increasingly taking place in morgues or in the context of the church. The first morgues appeared in Germany in the late 19th century. If an undertaker is responsible for preparing the deceased, he will also take care of the coffin, decoration, the ambience of the deceased and the proper laying out. However, laying out was popular even before the 19th century, but took place at home. The dead man was already dressed accordingly and placed in a pious position. Usually pictures of saints, crosses and other respectful decorations adorn the room. If the relatives have commissioned a death announcer to announce the death to the neighbors or the village community, he will also invite you to the laying out and burial. Thus, the community has the opportunity to appropriately say goodbye to its deceased member. In the case of public figures such as firefighters, police officers or soldiers, it is important to say goodbye to them in their specific environment. Appropriate clothing and badges are also attached and the dead can also be laid out in this environment.


If the deceased is still in his home before his burial, a wake will be held between the laying out and the burial. A distinction is usually made as to whether the deceased is male or female, and men or women are awake accordingly. A wake is usually very dignified and therefore people meet in church garb. As with the laying out, people pray alone or in a group. It is also common to sprinkle holy water on the dead. However, such a guard has more of the character of a casual get-together, people drink schnapps and beer and talk. The wake is no longer so common in many places, especially due to the undertaking of many tasks by funeral directors. Even if someone dies in their own four walls and no one agrees to take part in a wake, a rosary is prayed alternatively or sometimes in addition. If the vigil only takes place once, people meet on the remaining days until the funeral to pray rosaries for the deceased. But basically there is much more leeway for individual interpretations when interpreting the wake. Because everyone deals with death differently and the people involved in it all had their own special relationship to the dead, which should not be disregarded.

Death boards / coffin

In addition to the now common tradition of burying the deceased in a coffin if they wanted an earth burial, it was seldom the case until the 18th century that someone afforded their own coffin. There were death boards in the village, some of which were even decorated with carvings. The dead person was laid out on top of them and then brought to the cemetery and buried with this board. However, if the family was too destitute and could not afford any more boards or simply wanted to keep it, the deceased was placed in the grave without any additions. The construction of a coffin has changed little over time. Nowadays, of course, thanks to various coffin manufacturers and more leeway in the higher-priced segment, there is a richer selection. There are both simple coffins, which hardly differ from those from past decades, as well as colorfully painted individual coffins. Only the financial framework and personal taste are decisive.

Crematoriums appeared in the late 19th century, but burials continue to be more common in Catholicism. Coffin gifts are also quite often the case, personal items of the deceased that he valued very much during his lifetime, things that are considered useful for a life in the afterlife or objects for caring for corpses are popular.


Funeral procession

The last process after death has occurred is burial. Before the actual funeral mass takes place, the coffin is first carried by voluntary porters, mostly male family members, men from the village community or the association of the dead. If a death announcer was asked to organize the funeral and the deceased was a member of a so-called funeral fraternity, they will arrange an appropriate funeral procession. The funeral escort usually accompanies the dead from their house or the place of laying out to their grave. The order of escort is always very hierarchical. After the priest and the other closer members of the church, the immediate family or, if available, association members follow immediately. The clergyman always precedes the coffin, the end is formed by numerous neighbors and mourners. There is a procession after the blessing of the corpse in his house, followed by a mass and then the burial as such. Nowadays, however, the sequence between funeral and mass is not always strictly adhered to and is therefore individually interchangeable. However, it is advisable to prefer the mass to the actual funeral.

Funeral mass

In general, a mass is held in his honor in the presence of the deceased. This usually takes place in the church that the deceased used to visit during his lifetime. The body is laid out in front of the altar, with the head turned to the priest and the feet to the congregation. With this second laying out there is another possibility to say goodbye to the one who has passed out of life.

Funeral meal

The subsequent joint meeting serves above all to strengthen the feeling of togetherness and to anchor it more deeply in the community. The dead are remembered and the best possible time spent together. Whether it is a funeral drink or a funeral feast is up to you.

Mourning period

The division of mourning into different time limits is difficult to make and adhere to, as the mourning time depends on many factors. It differs from person to person how long it takes to deal with the death of a loved one, as well as the way of coping with grief. There are certain guidelines that may have to be followed, for example "hard" mourning refers to a period of up to three years, a spouse or parent who has lost their child should mourn for a year and siblings and more distant relatives half a year. It is also hard to imagine in today's society that it was actually hard as a woman to follow this period of mourning, as one had to rely on male strength for support on the farm and in agriculture. Accordingly, people used to marry it again as soon as possible and let a kind of everyday life arise again in order to be able to continue to do business.

Mourning robe

We are used to associating “black” as the color of mourning clothing, but this has not always been the case. White was gradually being replaced by simple black festive clothing. You wear simple dark clothes that are as respectful as possible, which are also suitable as Sunday clothes. Women usually do without lavish jewelry, men prefer to wear a hat and a suit to the funeral, but this dress code is also maintained during the time after the funeral or during the period of mourning, of course not to the same extent, but as far as the circumstances allow.

Evidence, literature

  • Fahl, Andreas and Alheidis v. Pipe. Life and life celebrations: birth, marriage, death. Hanover: Historical Museum. 1994.
  • Krumrey, Antje. Death Rituals and Ceremonies of Death: Their Changes in Time. Frankfurt (Oder): Viademica-Verlag. 1997.
  • Huber, Helmut. Customs for the dead in Lower Austria: domestic corpse watch in the alpine zone; Appearances of the 20th century. Ed. Helmut Huber. Vienna: VWGÖ. 1981.