Greek funerals are held for those of Greek Orthodox faith. The Greek Orthodoxy falls within the communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and is characterised in part by their liturgy which is (or was) originally performed in ancient Greek – the original language of the New Testament.
According to the most recent Australian Census, there are 544,300 Eastern Orthodox Christians in Australia, making up 4.3% of all Christians in the country. This makes it the fifth most popular Christian affiliation, after the Catholic, Anglican, Uniting Church and Presbyterian denominations.
For the most part, Greek Orthodox funerals are largely similar to Christian funerals in Australia, although there a number of significant differences. This guide covers everything you need to know about Greek Funerals in Australia and the practices that make them unique, including:
- Who Can Have a Greek Funeral?
- Greek Funeral Services
- Burial Ceremony
- The Makaria
- Subsequent Memorial Services
- Cost of a Greek Funeral
- Finding Greek Funeral Directors
1. Who Can Have a Greek Funeral?
In order to have a Greek Orthodox funeral, a person must have been baptised in a Greek Orthodox Church. In addition to this, there are several additional circumstances which may bar a person from a Greek funeral, including:
- Cremation – for further information see our article on Burial vs Cremation
- Marriage outside the Orthodox Church
It is traditional for a wake to be held the day before a Greek funeral. Funeral speeches are given at this time as (similar to Catholic funerals) eulogies usually do not form part of the funeral service.
During the wake, a priest will perform the Trisagion Service. The Trisagion Service, meaning “Thrice Holy” in Greek, is a standard hymn of the Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Orthodox church which derives its name from the recanting of the words, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us” three times.
3. Greek Funeral Services
Greek funeral services should be held in a Greek Orthodox church. Below are some of the traditions that characterise Greek Funeral Services.
Timing of the Service
Greek funeral services are typically held within 2-3 days of the death (though can be later in some circumstances.
Note: Greek funerals cannot be scheduled on Sundays or Holy Saturday.
Prayers, Readings and Hymns
An Orthodox priest will lead mourners through a series of prayers, readings and hymns. As with other Christian funerals, the funeral service can be personalised by selecting meaningful passages which can be read by close friends and family. However, as mentioned above, eulogies are normally not given during the funeral service, with instead the priest sharing personal information about the departed.
While this practice may vary from family to family, it is common in Greek funerals for there to be an open casket ceremony. While traditions can differ, mourners may be given a chance to:
- Bow before the caset
- Kiss a cross placed on the chest of the departed (known as the Kiss of Peace and Anointing)
- Place a flower on the casket – for help on choosing appropriate flowers for the mourning family, see our Guide to Funeral Flowers in Australia.
Appropriate Greetings at Greek Funerals
The traditional and appropriate greetings to the grieving family at a Greek Orthodox funeral include:
- “Memory eternal”
- “May their memory be eternal”
- “May you have an abundant life”
Greek funerals are traditionally “dual service” funerals in that they begin at a church and move on to the cemetery for a brief graveside ceremony.
As with the funeral service, the traditions of the graveside ceremony at a Greek funeral can vary, however, they commonly include the following practices:
- The priest will perform the Trisagion Service again
- Soil is placed on the coffin in the shape of a cross
- Mourners place flowers on the coffin
- The coffin and grave are arranged so that they face East
- The priest may seal the casket with oil and sand
5. The Makaria
The Makaria (or “Meal of Mercy”) is a customary meal that takes place at a restaurant, family home, or church hall shortly after the burial. Along with the typical pastries, fruit and coffee, fish is often served due to its connection with the scriptures and acceptability during religious fasting periods.
6. Subsequent Memorial Services
After the funeral service, is traditional to hold a number of Trisagion Services for the deceased at set intervals, the first being on the immediately following Sunday, followed by the third day, ninth day, fortieth day, three months, six months, nine months and 12 months.
It is also common for the bereaved to behave in a certain way during these time periods, for example they may:
- Only wear black for the first 40 days
- Avoid social events for the first 40 days
- Only wear black for 2 years (in the case of Greek Orthodox widows)
For more general information, see our Guide to Memorial Services.
7. Cost of a Greek Funeral
As with all funerals, the cost of a Greek Orthodox funeral can vary considerably based on the preferences of the family. However, generally speaking, the costs for Greek funerals will typically be higher than average as there are more traditions to comply with and arrange.
8. Finding a Greek Funeral Director
As one of the most popular denominations in Australia, most funeral directors will be familiar with the traditions of Greek funerals.
Gathered Here lets you compare prices and reviews of over 670+ funeral directors around Australia. To find a Greek funeral director in your area:
- Go to www.gatheredhere.com.au
- Select burial or cremation
- Select the type of funeral you are organising
- Enter your suburb and click “Compare”
For more guidance on finding a Greek funeral director in your state, you can refer to our city specific guides:
- Funeral Directors, Sydney
- Funeral Directors, Melbourne
- Funeral Directors, Brisbane
- Funeral Directors, Adelaide
- Funeral Directors, Perth
We hope you’ve found this guide to Greek Funerals in Australia helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a message in the comments section below.
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