I've noticed that Christian funerals and burials tend to come several days after the death, even in cases where the death was expected, there was no police involvement (so no need to wait on investigations), and nobody had to travel great distances.1 I've seen this for Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and some type of Lutheran (sorry, don't know which), so I'm assuming it's general, but if that assumption is mistaken please correct me.

Is there a theological reason to wait? Maybe a wait of three days is religiously significant, or there is some belief that either the soul or the family needs the delay? Is it a practical concern (that somehow doesn't apply to Jewish burials, which are usually within a day)? Is it not seen as urgent and so it's easier to just always have a delay?

1 The case that reminded me to ask the question is a Monday-morning death, expected, and a Saturday funeral, where nobody has to fly in.

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    Sometimes the church and/or funeral home have scheduling issues, sometimes it takes people time to make arrangements (burial site, purchase casket, etc.). But I'll let someone else address the theological reasons, in my experience it's all for pragmatic reasons.
    – Dan
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 15:36
  • It could be the church; when I said "expected" I guess I should have also said "planned for". In the cases I'm thinking of plots had already been bought. Don't know about choosing caskets though (nor how long that takes, as that's not part of our tradition). Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 15:45
  • it is also customary for Christians to have 'wakes' where viewing is held, often the day prior to the funeral. For someone notable or very young, there may even be a wake, memorial, funeral, and burial services.
    – Dan
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 15:52
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    In my experience this is purely pragmatic, as @Daи said. I have not run across any theological reason to go one way or the other. I know of no major (contemporary) traditions where it matters particularly. It's actually rather disconcerting to me the way Islamic funerals are rushed. The hurry to get the body in the ground causes all sorts of extra hassle and chaos on top of grief. Without the theological component driving the hurry I'm not surprised the trend is for Christians to take a couple days to go through all the steps. A good answer to this would have to deal with history though...
    – Caleb
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 16:31
  • I'm pretty sure it's a practical thing - in hot countries they rush bodies into the ground because otherwise they decompose quickly in all the heat. In colder countries (where many Christian groups are today) they have the luxury of taking their time and burying them whenever it's more convenient. Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 14:45

1 Answer 1


There is nothing in the Code of Canon Law which requires a wait of any particular time after a death for a funeral to take place. (My father was buried two days after his death; so were my wife's parents. In all cases the delays were simply due to the need to coordinate with the priest and the funeral home.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church does briefly allude to the idea that the community may celebrate "the anniversary of a death, or the seventh or thirtieth day after death" (paragraph 1687); I've never seen such a celebration.

The Ordo Exsequiarum (Order of Funerals, the book which contains the Catholic rites surrounding funerals) may have something further to say on this; unfortunately, it is not a text to which I have access.

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    Seven and thirty days are interesting, as those correspond to shiva and shloshim in Jewish practice. (People in different periods of mourning have different obligations.) Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 16:09
  • I had a feeling there was a "Jewish connection" :-) And the "anniversary of a death" corresponds to the Jewish Yahrzeit/Jahrzeit/nahala. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 16:13
  • @MattGutting Could you add this bit about the 7 and 30 into a footnote? I think capturing the point you and Maria raise is a nice coda to your answer. Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 15:43

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