Death carries its own watch, and holidays offer no exception or reprieve from it. Yet while some prefer to delay a funeral until after the holidays, it’s entirely acceptable to plan and have a service for your loved one at the time of their passing, no matter the time of year.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Can You Have a Funeral During the Holidays?
- Tips for Planning or Hosting a Funeral During the Holiday Season
- Tips for Delaying a Funeral for After the Holiday Season
Funeral death care is a 24/7 on-call industry that works to serve their community and neighbors' needs 365 days a year. Not only do funeral directors understand this, but it’s also likely they’ve helped others navigate a personal tragedy during the holidays as well.
Can You Have a Funeral During the Holidays?
The quick answer to this question is yes, of course, you can have a funeral during the holidays. However, during peak holiday travel and vacation times, holding a funeral for a loved one can present a few hurdles. Still, funerals held on designated national holidays are rare.
It comes down to a matter of opinion. But from experience, a funeral during the holidays might make you feel one of two ways:
- The yearly joy of the season will layer positive memories over the pain.
- The sorrow of the event might permanently mark the season’s traditional jubilee.
Whether you decide to plan and host a funeral during the holiday season or delay it until after the holidays, we’ve got some tips for you to navigate both decision-making processes.
Tips for Planning or Hosting a Funeral During the Holiday Season
Funerals during a holiday season can be tough to handle both emotionally and logistically. Let us help by offering a few bits of guidance.
Don’t plan for Sundays and religious holidays
In all or most cases, clergy members will not disrupt religious gatherings for their entire congregation to conduct a funeral for one member on a liturgical day (day of worship) or a religious holiday. Not only that but:
- Cemetery staff may not be available or have restrictions for holiday work hours.
- Family and friends may be on vacation with other family members.
- Some may not attend a funeral during the holidays for general or personal reasons.
So, it’s probably best to consider alternative days and save yourself some headache.
Talk with the funeral director
Your funeral director manages the funeral planning aspects. That makes them the go-to for advice and help planning a funeral for a loved one during the holiday season
Their entire goal is to help you navigate through challenging times, so they’ll be able to provide the best answers for your needs.
Plan for Fridays and Saturdays
Rather than hold a funeral in the middle of the week, plan to have the funeral on a Friday or Saturday when more loved ones are available to attend.
Also, be sure to check the hours of operation at the funeral home. If the business hours are Monday through Friday and 9-5, but you want to hold the funeral outside of business hours, you’ll incur additional charges.
Host two funerals
If you can host two funerals, you offer family and friends two opportunities to mourn their loved one. The first could be scheduled following religious rites and traditions, and the second can fill the gap for those who couldn’t make it.
Note: Each funeral can have a distinct feel. They don’t have to be the same. Just do what feels comfortable and appropriate.
Hold a casual ceremony at night
Instead of a formal funeral ceremony, opt for a more casual one. Consider a moonlit candle vigil. It makes for a beautiful way to bring radiant light into the darkness.
You may need:
- A speaker
- A stand for the cremated remains
- Taper candles with drip papers
- Prayer or tribute programs
You can do most of the planning for this online, and you can even livestream the event for those in faraway locations. Plus, you can hold these any day of the week—and at an hour when people aren’t juggling obligations.
Be flexible on the date
Many people make holiday travel plans well in advance of the season. And given that it’s at the busy end of the year, there may be some job time-off restrictions, too.
So, if you’re planning a funeral during this time, it’s essential to keep a malleable mindset. Friends and family typically want to make the right decision for their loved ones, but they may have hurdles, too.
Enable participation from anywhere
If your loved one was in a congregate care site like a skilled nursing home and memory care facility, or another type of long-term care facility, consider adding an element of service to the funeral that people can do no matter where they are in the world. For instance, you could set up a social media page for loved ones to add stories and photos. Family and friends can share their thoughts and experiences there.
This way, you can facilitate the same generosity your deceased loved one showed—particularly during the holidays when residents of assisted living homes often feel the loneliest. And even if someone can’t fly in for the funeral, they can still participate.
Offer a choice
One way to find out the best day for a funeral is to offer a few friends and family choices. By that, if the funeral home has a few windows available, send out a bulk email asking people to provide their preference. Or, you could just ask a few trusted friends and relatives.
You can’t accommodate everyone’s wishes, but you can opt for the date with the most interest.
Tips for Delaying a Funeral for After the Holiday Season
If you have a support system available, you may consider delaying the funeral to facilitate greater attendance. If so, here are a few tips and ideas on how to communicate and manage waiting until after the holiday season.
Changes to traditional practices can be off-putting for some traditional folks, especially in times of heartbreak and loss. And one thing is sure: not everyone acts with the best composure in the face of hard times. That’s why it’s best to approach any communication with patience and compassion.
Send out a save-the-date for a later time
Be proactive by easing the minds of those who may be concerned about the funeral delay. One way is to send out a notice—but offer a specific date in its place. That should soften the concerns of those that hold to old-school traditions.
Coordinate an online meeting
Though far from ideal and somewhat awkward, online conference calls offer somewhat of a chance to keep people in the know. Once people feel like they’ll be included (or loved and not left out), friends and family will generally come on board with the delay.
While you don’t need to contact everyone, you can select enough people so that the words reach the fringes of those who are interested in paying their respects to your loved one.
Hold a modified service
Having lived through a restrictive social gathering climate, we’ve all become pretty savvy at delaying things. So, you could hold a funeral service for just the immediate family, with another one to follow for extended family and friends.
One way to let people know about this change of events is to send out private messages on social media as it’s likely the one place you have everyone’s contact information. Select only those from your contact list who need to be made aware of the delay.
Plan an online event leading up to the day
It’s not uncommon for a funeral or memorial event to give away keepsakes from the service. So, here’s a chance for you to gather your crafty friends and family so they can help. This serves a few purposes:
- It allows for those who are grieving to gather and share memories.
- It will relieve some of your duties, especially during an already-busy time of year.
- Your friends and family will feel they’ve been able to contribute and help.
Join a grief group
Without the ritual of an immediate funeral or a gathering of friends to show support, you can feel even more grief-stricken. One way to help is to join a grief group online. You don’t have to share or talk, but sometimes the empathy you gain in listening to people experiencing pain can help you understand your grief better.
Set up a phone tree
If a funeral ceremony for a loved one who died during the holidays gets delayed, help any surviving members deal with the loss by setting up a phone tree.
That way, those who aren’t sure what to do with their grief or how to manage the pain can talk it out without feeling overwhelmed by having to dial a number to ask for help.
Skip the worry
If you’re worried about funeral etiquette or things you can’t change—don’t. Not everything falls into place perfectly all of the time,
Sometimes, and especially during the holidays (or any other nationally observed holiday), others will need to be willing to adjust their thoughts on tradition. That’s their job, not yours.
Emotional Support During the Holidays
Grief and loss during the holidays only amplify feelings of loneliness and emptiness. If anything, that’s the most important reason to plan and host a funeral during the holiday season. After all, it helps to have emotional support when tragedies happen—and it’s OK to ask for it.
No matter what, if you can or must delay the funeral, you can still pick up the phone and reach out to friends and family for support.