Hymns at Funerals : A Brief History

Hymns at funerals have been customary for thousands of years. The tradition of song as a demonstration of grief has long been a revered part of honouring the dead and dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and Chinese.

In Greece, women sang after preparing their loved one’s body for the funeral, with their song demonstrating their grief to the deceased, who were believed to hear and judge their mourners’ cries.

Traditions have since evolved, and the practice of chest-beating and pulling out hair that was once seen in Ancient Greece has thankfully disappeared. The custom of song, however, has persisted and evolved into the hymns at funerals we hear today.

hymns at funerals

Singing hymns at funerals is an important part of the Christian faith, a tradition crossing all denominations. They are often spiritual and chosen to reflect the deceased faith in God.

There are usually two hymns at funerals – one at the start and one at the end, although there may be more. Hymns may be joyful, melancholy or inspirational, and unite the congregation in sadness and grief. Other hymns at funerals serve to provide comfort and guidance to mourners in their time of need.

Take Abide With Me for example; this is a popular hymn written in Victorian times as a prayer to God, asking for comfort in dark times and guidance through the grieving process.

The Lord is my Shepherd, and Amazing Grace are both reassuring hymns, focusing on finding peace in death. Other hymns are more uplifting, like All Things Bright and Beautiful, and Morning has Broken, which centre on new life and renewal and are more celebratory in nature.

A funeral plan is the ideal place to leave clear instruction for your family and friends about the hymns you’d like at your funeral. It also means you can plan and pay for your funeral in advance, taking the emotional and financial burden away from your family.

With a Capital Life Funeral Plan, you can leave your loved one’s directions on your choices for your funeral, from hymns to flowers, to the wording on your memorial. Contact us or call us on 0800 411 8683 to speak to one of our friendly advisors.

We can also assist with Wills, Inheritance Planning, Probate and LPAs.