Food after the Funeral: What’s Appropriate

After most funerals, it’s customary to have a reception or meal. During this time, family and friends gather to share food, fellowship and memories of the person who has died. It’s an important step in the grieving process because it allows people to connect and begin to heal.

What’s the best food to serve? That may depend on where you’re from.

Different countries have different customs, and even within the U.S., the post-funeral menu varies widely by region.

  • In the South, mourners are likely to adjourn to the home of the deceased or a family member for a potluck feast. A sit-down dinner often features a varied spread with meats, casseroles and desserts, and is usually heavy on the comfort food. You can expect to find things such as macaroni and cheese, pasta salads, hot casseroles, desserts and more gelatin salads than you might expect if you’re not from the South.
  • In most places in the Northeast, food is not allowed in a funeral home. Still, in a church fellowship hall or private home, friends and family often gather for food both before and after the funeral. In fact, some wakes last several days. Italian dishes are popular foods in the Northeastern states.
  • In Pennsylvania, the Amish typically make “funeral pie”. This dessert with its sweet, custard-like filling, raisins and a double crust is popular because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It’s also customary to serve plates of dried fruits, and jams and jellies including apple butter.
  • In Utah and Idaho, one of the most popular comfort foods at a funeral is the appropriately named “funeral potatoes”. This creamy, cheesy casserole is simple but filling and a good example of the kind of hot dish popular at gatherings across the country.
  • In much of the Midwest, hot dishes and Bundt cakes have been the tradition, but a modern trend is to have the funeral reception catered. Many funeral homes are well equipped for this, offering linens and tableware to make it easy to hold a reception.
  • On the West Coast, catering is definitely popular, and the food offerings are often trendy. Sometimes, receptions are held at the funeral home, but gatherings are also held at restaurants.
  • In Hawaii, comfort food at a funeral traditionally means the Laulau. This twist on finger sandwiches involves pork or chicken wrapped in taro leaves and then steamed. Chow mein noodles are another common food at Hawaiian funeral gatherings.

Whether it’s hot dishes or dried fruits, food after a funeral is a time-honored tradition. Feasting after a funeral dates back at least as far as ancient Egypt and Greece. In fact, evidence of food has been found at burial sites dating back 12,000 years. Around the world, people commune after a funeral and begin their path to healing over a meal.

No matter what you decide to feed your guests after the funeral, consider Greenwood Memorial for the service. We have space available for your reception, whether it’s potluck or catered. Call us at (619) 450-1479 for more information.

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