Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


Funeral Customs in Brazil

Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


Funerals are the last thing a person has in mind when moving to a foreign country; however, learning how to deal with it may be very helpful as the way people understand and behave in such occasion changes greatly from culture to culture.

What are funerals like in Brazil?

While in the US and in some European countries a funeral lasts about a week, in Brazil they cannot surpass 48h. The reason given for this maximum length is that, as Brazil is a tropical a country, the body would decompose very quickly. This may explain part of it, but Italy and the south of the United States, for example, can have temperatures as high as the Brazilian ones, and yet their funerals still last more than it would in Brazil.

Another possible explanation is that the way Brazilians deal with death differs from the way Japanese, Americans, some Europeans and even Mexicans would do. While some cultures manage to take into account the great moments they have lived with the person who has died and see their funeral as a final celebration to pay a homage to the person’s trajectory, Brazilians focus on the pain of the loss and nothing more.

In a Brazilian funeral, it is not uncommon to see people passing out, screaming, kissing and hugging the body of the departed, overreacting when the coffin is closed and even throwing themselves over it when it is placed in the pit. Brazilians concentrate all their despair and pain in the funeral and from this perspective, it is a good thing that it doesn’t last more than two days.

Another particularity of Brazilian funerals is that they are very rarely held at home. Most funerals take place at “velórios”, which is a public or private buildings used to mourn the dead. Most municipalities in Brazil have the service.

As Brazilians see funerals as a moment of pain and grief and the funerals are relatively short, there is no concern about eating. In most Brazilian funerals, it would be offensive to ask the family if there is something to eat or a coffee to drink. If you’re feeling hungry or craving a cup of coffee, it’s better to go discreetly to the closest bakery than asking the family members if any food will be served.

What is the cost of a funeral in Brazil?

The cost of a funeral in Brazil varies greatly. A research made in São Paulo city estimated that a funeral can cost from BRL 250,00 to BRL 40.000,00. Everything depends on the type of coffin that will be used, where the body is going to be buried or cremated, the type and number of flowers and all other services relevant to the funeral.

The BRL 250,00 funeral includes only the basic services, with no flowers, candles or location for mourning. The most expensive includes live music and sweets that are typical from weddings and births.

The service is also offered for free if the family of the departed claims that they have no means to pay for the funeral or if the victim was an organ donor. In this last case, the family is exempted from all fees involved in the funeral and also receives a veil, candles and flowers for free.

The funeral services can paid in cash, check or credit card. The payment can be divided into three installments, with the exception of the flowers, that most of the times can only be acquired in cash. After the payment, the company providing the funeral service has up to three hours to remove the body.

Documents that must be presented

  • Death certificate (in case of cremation, two doctors must sign the document);
  • RG and birth or marriage certificates;
  • CPTS – work and social security register book;
  • Voter registration;
  • CPF and INSS card.

With the exception of the death certificate, the lack of all the other documents will not prevent the funeral from happening.

Graveyard vs. Crematory

As Christianity is the in the core of most religions in Brazil, burials are more common than cremation. Just to give an idea, there are three crematories in the metropolitan area of São Paulo against 21 public cemeteries only in the city. There are also 16 private cemeteries in the city.

Apart from the few crematories available, it is important to have in mind that cremation tends to be a little bit more expensive than a regular burial and it is not possible to get it for free. Even though the number of cremations has increased in Brazil, 72% of the dead still are buried.

In case of violent death, the company providing funeral services request a legal authorization. To issue it, it is necessary to take the death certificate, the accident report and a declaration of the deputy stating that he is not against the cremation to the closest criminal forum.

VIP funeral services

The type of funeral that is common in European countries and in the US is offered in Brazil as a VIP service. Companies providing this service claim that its clients see funerals as the final social event in a person’s life, so it should be equivalent to the type of life the dead person has had.

Companies providing luxurious funerals claim that their exclusive services give a different aspect to the transition from life to death. There is a wide range of services offered to mitigate the pain of the moment, such as:

  • Funerals at home;
  • Catering (three different types);
  • Make-up;
  • Newspaper ads;
  • Souvenirs;
  • Decoration;
  • Car and driver available to the family;
  • Rest area with internet connection 24h;
  • Home delivery of ashes in case of cremation.

Of course, all this comfort is not cheap and having a prestigious funeral can cost up to BRL 40.000,00.