Funerals in Lapland
Home of Santa Claus
After the Christmas break and the number of notable celebrity deaths which dominated the news, I started to think about funeral customs in Lapland.
“Over the years, we have written about funerals in many exotic and faraway places, most of them hotter countries with very different cultures to our own. We have not covered territory nearer to home and probably closer to our European custom. For these reasons I decided to do a little research over the Christmas break.”
The Northern Lights
Lapland is the most northern region of Finland and borders Norway, Sweden, Russia and the Baltic sea. It is sparsely populated and known for its sub-arctic climate and wilderness. It is a popular tourist destination, not just for trips to see Santa, but also for its winter sports, Northern Lights and the midnight sun. The region has a small population of 180,000 people. Its main city, Rovaniemi, is the business and transport hub for the area.
Following a search on the web, I contacted the Jokela Funeral Home and corresponded with family owner Ville-Pekka Jokela. Ville-Pekka’s funeral business is family run and well established with its origins through several generations dating back to 1923. Like many businesses in the UK it was originally a carpenters / joinery business which also made coffins, and as time passed it became the established and specialised funeral provider it is today.
I asked some questions, which we hope you will find of interest:-
In the UK, funerals end with a cremation or burial, the most popular being cremation at 80%. What is your custom?
If we are talking about Lapland (not all of Finland), the ratio is 18.9 % cremation. In Rovaniemi, my hometown, it’s 20 % cremation.
Your climate is very cold. Does this impede burials?
Cold weather does not stop burials. Our parish that owns the cemetery uses heaters to melt frost in the ground so that gravedigging is possible during winter.
In the UK funerals are arranged within 7 days, is it the same in Lapland?
We don’t have a specific time for the funeral, the law only says ’without unnecessary delay’. It could be over 1 month from death to funeral. Typically it’s 14 days.
A UK funeral usually has a gathering / religious service followed by cremation or burial, is your custom the same?
This is the same. The cremation is not witnessed by the gathered family but done on a separate day.
Afterwards there is usually some sort of gathering or ‘wake’ where people eat and drink and remember the person, do you do the same?
People don’t drink that much at funerals, but they have a meal (at least sandwiches or coffee and cake), mostly salmon soup or reindeer stew!
Coffins – are they all solid wood?
Our coffins are mostly of solid wood (the bottom is normally chipboard). Fittings may be wooden or metallic. All the fabrics (we also have coffins covered with fabric) are cotton or linen as standard. Customers have to get used to this, as polyester etc. was banned from the beginning of 2017! I wouldn´t use polyester or plastic in coffins (especially in cremation) anymore.
How much do you buy a coffin for and how much do you sell it for, in general?
We offer a selection of coffins which we buy from a wholesaler, they retail for around 400 euros up to 4000 euros dependent on finish, the wood they are made from and the style..
Families are offered the choices, and our range is available to see on our website.
Examples of our Popular Wood and Silk covered coffins are pictured here.
What is becoming more / less popular?
Inside the coffin, linen is becoming more popular or at least more used.
Cremation has been increasing heavily during the past decade. Smaller funerals for just the closest family is also more common these days. Sadly, this also means less opportunities for friends and acquintances to grieve their loss or celebrate the life of the deceased.
Do you have any special native customs?
The deceased is sometimes still taken to his/her homeyard before taking the coffin to the cold storage at the chapel or directly to the funeral. Other than that the customs vary a lot between locations in Finland and in Lapland.
How many funerals / families do you look after in a year?
My company hopefully looks after around 200 funerals a year (28. December 2016 we’re at 204).
Do you need a permit / licence to operate as a Funeral Director in Finland?
There is no license or permit required to operate as a Funeral Director in Finland.
What percentage of your work is pre-plan i.e. when people pre-arrange and / or pre-pay for their funeral?
1 % of my work is pre-planned, but in a small country like Finland it is not advisable to prepay a funeral…
In conclusion, from the short dialogue we have had it appears funeral customs are traditional and very similar to our own. As with other Nordic countries, they are making their Funerals and coffin choices greener whilst remaining traditional. There is virtually no pre-plan market and, as in the UK, there are no restrictions on opening as a Funeral Director.
Our thanks to Mr Ville-Pekka Jokela for all his help in providing this information. If you wish, you can visit his website for more details www.hautaus.info