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The Untold Story of American Funeral and Mourning Traditions
Why do we embalm the deceased? Why are funerals so expensive? Is there a reason coffins are shaped the way they are? When—and why—did we start viewing the deceased? Ceremonies for honoring the departed are crucial parts of our lives, but few people know where our traditional practices come from—and what they reveal about our history, culture, and beliefs about death. In Last Rites, author Todd Harra takes you on a fascinating exploration of American funeral practices—examining where they came from, what they mean, and how they are still evolving.
Our conventions around death, burial, and remembrance have undergone many great transitions—sometimes due to technology, respect for tradition, shifting sensibilities, or even to thwart grave robbers. Here you’ll explore:
Influences for American rituals—from medieval Europe, the Roman Empire, and even ancient Egypt
When mourning fell out of fashion—and how George Washington’s passing brought it back
Abraham Lincoln’s landmark funeral and its widespread impact
Flowers, liquor, mourning gifts, and caskets—the reasons behind our grieving customs
Unknown soldiers—how warfare influenced funeral and bereavement practices … and vice versa
How growing populations, religion, inventions, and media have changed and continue to shape our traditions
The future of our death rites—mushroom suits, green burial, body donation, flameless cremation, home funerals, and more
The rich story of the American funeral is one of constant evolution. Whether you’re planning a funeral service or are simply intrigued by the meaning behind American burial practices, Last Rites is an informative and compelling exploration of the history—and future—of the ceremonies we use to say farewell to those who have departed this world.