Throughout the world, there are many different ways to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us. As a Welsh funeral company, we felt it would be appropriate to explore the funeral traditions of the Welsh people.
Early Welsh Funeral Traditions
Many years ago, when someone died it would be their family’s responsibility to wash the body. They would keep the water used to wash them and leave it under a table until after the funeral. On top of the table, they would lay the body. The coffin would be made and taken to the house. Sweet herbs would be left in the room and candles would be lit.
The room where they carried out this process would have white linen draped over it, and the curtains would be closed. Any mirrors would be covered. Visitors would be invited into the room, and the body was never left alone in the house.
A wake was held nightly, up until the day of the funeral. The wakes would involve food such as bread and cheese, and alcoholic drinks. In fact, the giving of beer was a firm Welsh custom.
The night before the funeral was known as Gwylnos. The tradition was that mourners would spend time together sharing fond memories of the deceased, before kneeling by the body and saying a prayer. The Welsh traditionally carried their deceased family members to the churchyards themselves. Women did not attend funerals, nor go to the graveside. However, they would attend the wakes.
Traditional Welsh Funeral Candles
One of the superstitions that the Welsh had many years ago was that spectral funeral candles were an omen of death. These were known as Canwyll Corph, which translates to corpse candle. These ghostly candles would be seen outside the homes of those who were fated to die, or along the path of a funeral procession.
Different shapes, sizes, colours and appearances of corpse candles would signify different meanings. Shorter candles meant that a younger person was fated to die. Two candles together, with one shorter than the other meant that a parent and child would die. A red flame meant a man would die and a white flame meant a woman would die.
This fascinating legend was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, but is no longer observed in popular culture today.
Funerals In Wales Today
Today, many Welsh funerals take the same format that is popular throughout the UK. If you’ve got a tradition that you’d like to preserve while commemorating the life of your loved ones, give our friendly team a call. We specialise in funeral services that are compassionate, respectful and tailored to the needs of you and your family.