Burial and cremation

In promoting freedom of religion and conscience, Finnish law seeks to facilitate the respectful disposal of a person’s remains. Everyone, regardless of their faith or church membership, may be buried in a parish cemetery, and the cost of a plot is the same as that for one in a public cemetery. Those of no faith may be buried in a designated area of a parish cemetery.

Both burial and cremation are accepted practices in Finland, and cremation is used increasingly in urban areas, where space is at a premium. When there is a cremation, it is nearly always preceded by the funeral, and the same form of service is used. After the committal, the coffin is usually left in front of the altar of the chapel, from where it is transferred to the crematorium.

Ashes are usually delivered to the relatives at the cemetery chapel or in the sacristy of their local church about a week after the committal, and they are then interred or scattered. By law, ashes must be disposed of within a year of cremation. They may be placed in a family grave, separate plot or columbarium. They may also be scattered in a cemetery’s memorial grove, another appropriate place, or on water, as allowed by law.

As the urn is placed in the ground or the ashes are scattered, a short prayer may be said. The prayer may be offered by a pastor or another parish worker, but it may also be offered by relatives. If the ashes are to be interred, a member of the family places the urn in the ground, and the grave is usually filled in at this point.

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