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The past 25 years have seen a number of changes in the types of services that mourners request, according to the staff of Oliverie Funeral Home. As they have observed, many people have moved from traditional funerals to more cost-conscience or personal options, like cremations.

Cremation’s Lengthy History

The practice of cremation can trace its roots back the Stone Age, around 3,000 B.C., first appearing in Europe and the Middle East, according to the Cremation Association of North American (CANA.) The practice spread or was adopted across the world, becoming central to the funeral rites of many cultures. In modern times, it is quickly becoming the most popular way to care for a loved one’s remains.

Before the 1800s, cremation was rare in North American and not a socially acceptable way to dispose of human remains. This view began to change slowly after 1876. That year, Dr. Julius LeMoyne built the first crematory in the United States, located in Washington, Pennsylvania. Public acceptance of the practice was slow in coming; only 47 cremations were performed at this site before it closed.

Dr. LeMoyne developed the American cremation process in response to the growing number of bodies abandoned at funeral homes. These bodies were creating unsanitary conditions, threatening the public health. Dr. LeMoyne faced sharp criticism over this practice. However, he ardently believed that the public health benefits of cremation overrode the religious sensibilities of the time.

A second crematory, opened in 1884 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, proved more successful. With Protestants clergy looking to reform funeral services and medical professionals promoting the benefits of cremation, the practice soon spread.

According to the National Funeral Directions Association (NFDA), in 2005 alone over 778,000 cremations were performed, which accounted for over 30 percent of all funeral services that year. By 2010, cremations comprised more than 38 percent of all funeral services. By 2018, it is expected that 50 percent of people will chose cremation for their loved ones’ burial care, making up almost 900,000 cremations a year.

Reasons For Popularity

One of the most important reasons for cremation’s growing popularity is cost. While figures can vary widely from region to region, the average cost of a tradition funeral with a burial plot is ,000, with many funerals costing ,000 or more. In comparison, cremation is a fraction of this cost, at around ,000 to ,000.

Now, with cremation, families and loved ones can combine tradition funerals with their last viewing of the departed. As a representative for Oliverie Funeral Home explains, families can opt to either have a “direct cremation,” having the funeral home collect the decreased and deliver the remains to the family. Other families choose “cremation with viewing,” renting caskets and sometimes even buying small burial plots for the cremains. Either option is significantly economical than more traditional funeral services.

Additionally, a cremation can be more convenient to a grieving family. There is no pressure to find the funds for a traditional service. Also, a cremation allows a family to schedule a memorial service at their discretion, potentially allowing more loved ones to attend.

Younger generations are more accepting of cremation as an appropriate burial service than older generations. Embalming and burial were the norm for the generations born before the middle of the 20th century, and their funeral wishes often reflect these norms.

However, younger generations are more comfortable with not having a traditional “final resting place.” They also tend to think funerals are more appropriately a celebration of the life of the departed, rather than a time for grieving. As fewer people grow up with older, more traditional views of funeral services, cremation will continue to grow in popularity.

Religious Considerations

Until very recently, the majority of funerals were religious in nature, and many still are. The funeral itself was often thought of as a solemn affair, with a viewing of the deceased and a religious service either at a church or funeral home. A funeral procession followed the family for another gravesite service.

In recent years, there has been a decided shift away from this formal and religious observation of funeral rites. Younger generations embrace a more personal approach to funerals, with cremation as a part of the process.

There will always be a place for traditional funeral services. Many religions, or denominations within some religions, do not allow cremation. Many Orthodox Jewish sects prohibit cremation, as do some Christian denominations. Even in religions that allow cremations, there may be more customs surrounding that practice. For example, after Vatican II, Catholics were allowed to cremate the remains of their loved ones. However, the ashes have to be interred or kept at home.

A good funeral home can help a grieving family choose the most appropriate funeral services, whether it is a traditional service for a devout loved one or a cremation for a more secular family member. As the professionals at Oliverie Funeral Home attest, while cremation’s popularity will likely continue to grow, they ensure that a family’s exact wishes are always carried out - regardless of which option they ultimately choose.

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