What will the future look like? Sweden has seen a sharp increase in the number of burials

In Sweden, the number of people who bury dead relatives without an official ceremony is on the rise. From less than 2% in a decade to 8% last year. In many large cities, about one-tenth of the dead are taken directly from the hospital and cremated. The ashes are then scattered or buried in anonymous memorial gardens by the staff.

According to the Swedish Funeral Home Association who released the data on this, these burials are very rare in other countries. According to Co-op Funeralcare’s latest data, direct cremations are on the rise.

Their popularity in Sweden can be explained by the fact that Sweden is one of the most secular nations in the world and resists traditions. Could it spread elsewhere, too, with reporting that the majority of young people from 12 European countries have no faith ? Does this mean that rituals are going away?

In Sweden, church attendance has declined for some time now and is continuing to decline. The traditional rituals of the church don’t seem to appeal to modern, secular people who might find them meaningless.

Take weddings. The traditional church ceremonies are dependable: If you accept and obey the rules, and respect the authority of the ceremony leader, then the marriage will be confirmed. These rituals can be perceived as being formal and lacking personal touch.

While many couples choose to get married in a church, often because of aesthetic or historical considerations, the majority of Swedes today prefer non-religious marriages . It can be done in the nature or at more spectacular locations.

The obituaries provide another glimpse into the Swedish move away from religion. In obituaries, indexical symbols are used more often than the traditional cross that originally signified eternal life. The deceased can be represented by a teddy or a boat if they were a child. Flowers are appropriate for nature lovers, sailors, and others.

Funerals have changed for quite some time. Some people choose non-religious funerals, even though the church still performs the majority. Many Western countries play pop songs and ballads the deceased liked instead of traditional religious hymns. The popular Swedish funeral song based its lyrics on an image of heaven being “a town above clouds” with “beaches covered in sunshine”.

This message is not appealing to modern people. People who are not religious don’t believe in an afterlife. The life that is lived now must be fully enjoyed. This is also reflected in the song as it is in heaven, which is often played at funerals.


The rise of secularism and individualism are clearly linked. In the absence of gods and afterlives, we have now become more important. As we can see from both weddings as well as funerals, modern rituals place an increasing emphasis on the individual.

In Sweden, for example, the celebration of A-level graduation is becoming a more important ritual. Non-religious naming ceremony for babies is also becoming more popular. In 2000, 72% (or 42%) of Swedish babies were baptized.

Helsingborg celebrates the A-level graduation. Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Research supports this shift towards individualism. Catherine Bell, a religious studies scholar from the US, stated that rituals tend to become more private rather than public. In her book Ritual, she writes that “doctrines and ethics are downplayed to favor language that emphasizes highly personal processes of realisation, commitment, and transformation.”

As I’ve shown in my research, this has also been commodified as coaching and lay therapy. Self-certified entrepreneurs are tasked with identifying and liberating a person’s inner potential or “authentic self” in these new practices.

This pursuit is prevalent in management courses, the media, and talk shows. , meanwhile, has evolved into a spiritual movement. This leads to new practices or rituals for self-improvement, such as Daily Affirmations. These can influence traditional ceremonies.

Future Funerals

It is not surprising to find that many Swedes bury their dead without ceremony. These new rituals are individualistic and focus on the now rather than the afterlife. Many people ask for the ashes of the deceased to be scattered in the places where they had a connection, such as the sea.

Many of these burials were requested by the deceased, sometimes to avoid additional work for their familyThe decision is made because of financial reasons or a disagreement between relatives about what type of ceremony to use. There are times when there are no family members. Sweden has the largest number of people who live alone.

How likely is it, then, that this kind of funeral practice will become the norm in Sweden and elsewhere? This is unlikely to occur anytime soon. It’s not likely to happen anytime soon. In the future, non-religious and private funerals will likely become more popular than traditional funerals.

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