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"I'm not sure what I'm consoling you for..."

So said someone, at least partially tongue in cheek, as he shook my hand on the way out of the crematorium.  Such are the local variances in funerary custom and the potential for confusion and misunderstanding...

I was, momentarily, thrown - to me it is utterly normal that the minister (or other celebrant) stands at the exit to shake hands with everyone as they leave, an expression of condolence to them and appreciation of their presence.  But that, it seems, is terribly, terribly English!  Ah well.  I'm not about to stop doing it!

The local tradition is for the family to line up at the exit and for everyone to file past, expressing their condolences in what has been referred to on occasion as "the penguin parade".  Hand shakes, expression of regret, hugs... and crematorium staff shoving the final few folk out of the door to get it closed in time for the next service...  It's a lovely custom, if not ideally suited to crematoria, and I certainly wouldn't want to change it.

Reflecting on the experience, I realised that my sample of Scottish crematoria (four) demonstrates a design difference from my sample of English crematoria (around a dozen I think at a quick count), in so far as most English ones (unless they are very old) have areas set aside for mingling after the service, with dedicated places where flowers may be laid out and viewed by all who have attended before they leave.  In a slightly less formalised way, the handshakes, hugs and expressions of condolecne take place.

Regional variation in funeral customs is huge - the use of biers (trolleys) or shouldering a coffin; the ettiquette for entering a crematorium chapel; whether the minister/celebrant leads in the coffin or waits to welcome it... and so many, many more.  it's not "right" or "wrong" it's just different.

The potential for misunderstanding is still huge, and what seems 'normal' or 'right' in one fairly localised area may seem 'strange' or even 'wrong' in another.

The key thing, I think, is that yesterday's services fulfilled the purpose for which they were intended, and if we ended up with some strange anglo-scottish or caledonian-english blend well, so be it.  I don't somehow think it matters in the scheme of things :-)

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