..A subject not often talked about, but recent events made me think of it.
Death, in general, is a topic people shy away from, although an inevitable event.
One thing is sure, the unfortunate person concerned will not take part, and unless particularly well organised he or she will not have
.......arranged anything particular. There are Societies who specialise in such events, much on the same lines as the "special event caterers".
. Since time immemorial, such meals have been arranged mainly as a mark of respect for the "defunct", and are a part of every Society's tradition.
Nowadays it has become rather similar in style to many other "happier" events, such as weddings, birthdays, namedays and all the rest, but still somewhat more specialised.
Care must be taken to stay within a respectful "decency" - decoration must be carefully chosen, music and speeches carefully examined for possible errors.
..Flower arrangements must be chosen with the "departed" in mind, and finally, but probably most importantly, care must be taken in the seating arrangements. Those known to have "conflicts" with other invited guests should be seated well apart, simply to avoid any scenes at the event.
Yes - nowadays mainly done in a buffet style, cold and hot being served, but always with the possibility of being seated, it's not a stand up finger party, and depending on the circumstances, care must be taken regarding the possible physical condition of some of the invited guests, often aged, possibly frail, sometimes extremely emotional. The "serving staff" should be respectful, not "over friendly" or serve with laughs and large smiles, but equally well not with tears in their eyes or with a downright miserable attitude. This "last supper" is supposed to allow others to talk about past events, to pay any marks of respect they may have, but all in a normal manner - neither dejected nor elated. Certain items should be avoided, items such as Champagne, a mark of gaiety....unless of course the defunct has deliberately left instructions, as sometimes happens, that the event should be light-hearted. Even then, it's not every guest who is capable of doing so, and "light-heartedness" can easily swamp over into a disrespectful orgy of humour.
A good professional caterer will always have "contingency" plans.
The Germans call this "Leichenschmaus" and it often takes place in the defunct's local "Gaststätte" or very often in the special rooms attached to the Cemetries. The tendency in Germany is to have a simple thing served, very often the "Kaffee und Kuchen" (Coffee and Cake) without the exotic and luxurious "Sahnetorten", or the typical German style meals consisting of a soup, a dish of roasted meat with sauerkraut or potatoes, or "Knödeln" (I've already dealt with the subject in an earlier posting). Rarely is music played unless the defunct requested it, or was a member of some Musical Association.
The drink served is invariably beer, with wine available for those who wish, coffee always being served as well. The organisers should always have access to the possibilities of arranging other drinks, such as non-alcoholic or infusions such as tea.
Here again, the German version of Champagne (Sekt) should be avoided, unless desired by the defunct.
In France, the situation is difficult. I personally have never seen or heard of such a ceremony, and the nearest I can find towards it is a translation given as:
In all the cases I have been associated with, the friends and families have simply returned to the home of one or the other of the participants with mr. le Curé or Minister of Religion also being invited, as in Germany, or a meal has been offered to specially selected guests in a nearby Restaurant.
Strangely enough, in France the same description is given to the various forms of "stag nights" - "Enterrement de la vie célibataire"- in other words a "last fling" before marrying, for both male or female candidates....
Every country has it's own rules and traditions, so if you are ever invited or obliged to attend one, have a quick check on what would be normal before attending.
So....in a naïve way, hoping you will never need these informations and suggestions, I can only recommend that you stay as healthy as possible, and that starts and ends with what you eat....and what you can afford...!
iwmpop (mrlemarquis) - Vauvert, France - Décembre 2010
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