Homegoing Funeral Traditions

February 16, 2022

Springfield, Branson, and Bolivar are such wonderfully diverse places to live. Our team at Greenlawn Funeral Home is committed to honoring the traditions and celebrating the lives of families from these areas. It’s important to us to help every family, no matter culture or background, plan the farewell their loved one deserves.

This includes our Black families, who have historically rich and moving funeral traditions. While the African American community is one of great diversity, some aspects are often widely practiced and shared. The most prominent of these traditions is the homegoing celebration, an event representing the symbolic return of the loved ones’ spirit back to its heavenly home.

With origins dating back to Ancient Egypt, many rituals were brought to the United States during the era of slavery. Funerals and religious activities became foundational in early African American culture, as enslaved peoples saw death as a release and an opportunity to be “free at last.” Rather than a somber gathering, a celebratory tone acknowledges that the loved one who died has joined with ancestors in heaven.

Traditionally upon entering the family’s church home, guests are given a funeral program, which shares their loved one’s biography. Typically, their loved one will be present with an open casket, as cremation is still rare in the African American community. Guests then file past the open casket to pause and say last goodbyes. The loved one who died is in full view throughout the entire funeral ceremony, though occasionally, the casket is closed once all the guests have entered the space. The casket is typically adorned with colorful flowers, fabric, flags, and photos.

With hymns, gospel songs, and designated solos, the Homegoing encourages public displays of grief. A sermon, eulogies, and shared stories and memories also bring comfort. After the funeral and burial, guests join in for a repast – an elaborate meal typically prepared by the home church. This is a time for nourishing the body and the spirit, as loved ones share food and memories around the table. The conversation, laughter, and joy speak to the strength of the community and the lasting memories of their loved ones.

Our experienced staff embraces the beauty and value of our cultures and recognizes how families grieve and move toward healing as they celebrate and honor life together. Reach out to us if you have questions, would like to learn about our preplanning services, or hear how we can work with you during your time of need.