Tag Archives: traditions

Recently I attended a funeral of someone close to me.  There were many members of the  Y generation and Mellennials  [born 1977 to 1995] who reluctantly also attended.   They shared that they do not want to be viewed in a casket after they leave this world.   They vision caskets, viewings, funerals and people getting together when they are grieving as  distasteful to them and not their expression of sympathy.  They also feel that attending a 'gathering' or 'luncheon' afterwards is like 'having a party' where people remember funny memories of the deceased and is not something they want any part of for themselves.

They don't want anyone to see them laid out - they would have a closed casket.  Plus, they don't want to have a lot of people, friends or family  around them if they were the ones to lose a loved one.  They want to keep their sorrows private and just want to go home - and be alone with their loss/grief.  And many times, they say it just costs too much for the funeral, casket, memorial, flowers & luncheon or dinner afterwards.

As I was growng up, I used to dread wakes, and the traditions surrounding them. As I got older, I realized the need for the grieving family and loved ones to process the loss they were going through.  Attending the services is an expression of respect for the deceased and their loved ones.  Some people die unexpectedly and the wake is the reality that the loss really did happen.  When a wake is not attended, there could be a thought or denial that it did not happen, ie, ‘I did not see it therefore I can’t believe it.'

Wakes, viewings, and services are a part of life for many Generation X members [(born 1965 to 1979] and Baby Boomers [born 1946 to 1964]  and Traditionalists or Silent Generation born 1945 or before.

Truly, the bereaved need the comfort of family, friends and acquaintances during this most grieving time. As difficult and tearful as it is, it gives the bereaved an opportunity to give needed expression to release the grief that most of us feel at these times in order to heal and accept their loss.

it is your presence that will be remembered and not your words.   Sometimes the words can be hurtful - like saying they are in a better place - does not always comfort - the family would prefer they were there with them.  Or, "it was their time"....when the family wanted them forever.   Acts of comforting via touch, hugs, or listening help heal the loss feelings – which could be overwhelming into a depression if they are not expressed – and your presence may foster acceptance and healing.

In today's culture,  wake or viewing times have been shortened  to just one day [it used to be 3 days followed by the funeral the next day [or fourth day].  One day viewing seems best as It may be a drain on a family who may have not slept in days or experience long travel times or handled  accommodations  for out-of-town relatives.

There are closed caskets, cremations and different memorials for the deceased.  Wakes are a part of a person’s life just as baptisms or weddings are. There is something sad about a small number of persons attending.   Sometimes there are quips and laughter in remembrances of the deceased and is not meant disrespectfully but in remembering and cherishing memories of him or her.

Sometimes there are lunches after the cemetery or interment....It’s a needed closure.   It is better to be with people who knew and loved the person who died than to go home right after the cemetery – alone with a heavy heart.  It reconnects people who have lost touch.  Shared grief will share the loss for all.   Wake viewings and funerals serve this purpose.

If you are a faith person, the viewing and church services are a celebration of a new life in eternity with God.  Many churches focus on this positive affirmation instead of the negative of loss. If you believe in the resurrection of the dead, then the wake is a celebration of their life here on earth and the new life they are entering.

Marie Coppola January 2020

 L'amore e per sempre - Love is Forever  

And parents of the happy couple hope it is forever - it can be a costly, extravagant affair and is expected to last forever. Happily, there are fewer Italian divorces.

Usually preceded by an engagement party, the bridal shower, and the rehearsal dinner, the wedding can be affair of 100 to 300 guests. Italian families are large and may be why the bridal parties are, too. it is not unusual to have 8 to 12 attendants, plus 2 flower girls and a ring bearer.

After the stretch limo, Mercedes or horse-driven carriages to the place of reception, the guests are greeted for cocktails in a Monaco-hall type setting resendent with enormous crystal chandeleirs, marble columns and floor to ceiling mirrors. Finger Hors deoveres are served along with cocktails.


The formal dinner is served shortly thereafter, a 5 or 6 course meal, starting with a room filled with appetizers. The appetizers range from fresh fruit, shrimp, assorted tuna, shrimp, crabmeat, egg and varied salads, along with the familiar italian delicacies; ricotta stuffed eggplant, meatballs and sausages, pasta dishes, and varied fish dishes, mussels, crab legs, lobster tails, scallops, calamari and many more. There is a bar set up with different mixed drinks, champagne, wines,and liquers.

When dinner is announced, the guests move to the formal dinner room. Dinner usually begins with soup, a minestrone or wedding soup, followed by a salad. The next course is always a pasta course. The main course comes next, your entree choice usually of chicken, salmon, or prime rib.

The band or DJ is already playing when you come into the hall, and continue playing while dinner is eaten. Danciing is popular and everyone dances.

After socializing, dancing and the traditional first dances, cake cutting and garter removal and boquet throwing, the hour is near midnight when the dessert room double doors, also know as the Venetian Room or Viennese Table are opened. The same large room that carried all the appetizers are gone and in their place are tables and stations of every fresh fruit - fruit is a favorite Italian dessert along with fancy cakes, tortes, sherbets, cannoli, cream puffs, puddings, ice cream bars, Italian cookies, tira misui, cream and fruit pies, including the sliced wedding cake. There are coffee urns and an expresso bar both caffineated and decafeffatee. Lattes, capaccinos and Irish coffees are served here also.

When the guests return to their tables, there are highly anticipated mounds of fancy home-made Italian cookies, decorated with tulle and fancy papers - they are the most popular and quickly consumed or carried home for the next day.

One Italian tradition is for the newlyweds to give a wrapped favor gift to the guests as they present the couple with their money gift. Almost 100% of wedding gifts are money gifts. When the guests presents the envelope which is placed in a money bag on the bride's wrist and usually matches the wedding dress, they get a gift in return. These are lovely gifts, sometimes figurines from Italy, many in crystal. Sometimes it could be a bowl or vase, wine glasses or even an expresso serving gift of 6.

One wedding we attended was a Cinderella-inspired wedding. The gift to the guests was a Svardoniski crystal coach in sterling silver. Before the couple left the reception, two white doves were carried in and all the guests were invited to the outside veranda to let the doves go - if they left together, it was a good sign for the couple. They did.

Some weddings have cigar bars with someone from the islands rolling fresh cigars. Others have sushi bars in addition to all the above menus. Many have artists roaming around drawing caricatures for the guests.

Some of these weddings may cost what a grand down payment on a house would be or a high-priced new car. In addition, the parents may also present a honeymoon trip as a gift.

Italian weddings reflect not only the generosity of the families towards the newest 'family', but also the closeness of all the relatives who partake. For all the grandiosity and splendor they project, the family love in toasts, remembrances, hugs affection and multiple toasts of good wishes are extremely high. Auguri!!

Marie Coppola October 2012