Why do Americans Serve Food When Someone Dies?

Life and death and different rituals.

Araci Almeida


Photo from https://www.funeralwise.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/iStock-465109043sm.jpg

If you’re outside the US and watch American media — which isn’t hard — you’ve seen countless funeral ceremonies, from burying people to cremating them. Nothing strange for now, right? At least here in Europe, or this part of Europe called the Mediterranean, we do the same thing.

But now comes the unusual part, and honestly, this is a cultural thing that I will never, ever understand. If you are one of those who has ever felt embarrassed and awkward to see people drinking and eating at a memorial service in the US, raise your hand! Or is it just me? Come on, eating and drinking during such a sad time?

“Hey, my mum died, so it seems like a great time to bring people together and to drink and eat!”

This is all cultural and has to do with how people view life and death. I know this, I’m educated, and I’m not stupid. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this is just plain wrong.

Some UK students I have, whose cultural similarities are closer to the US than Portugal, have told me that a memorial service is like a celebration of this person’s life, and they like to eat and drink while telling stories about the deceased.

The concept is beautiful, and in theory, it is right. However, here in Portugal or any other Mediterranean country, people associate food and drink with joy because food is indeed a joy, as is our wine.

Now in England, at least when I was there, and in turn, there was no joy in their food and no real food for what it’s worth. And from what else I saw on TV, the food in the US is far from as delicious as ours. Sorry, but things that come in boxes are not food!

In Portugal, people wear black when an older person dies and white when someone young dies. We don’t need to wear suits, just black/white clothes. The person is buried or cremated 48 hours after their death. When someone is buried, the coffin stays for 24 hours in the chapel, where relatives are usually next to the coffin, mourning their soul. People go there to support them.

There is always a small card with the person’s photo and a Catholic sentence with an angel. Is this embarrassing, the card thing? Maybe, but it…



Araci Almeida

9 Times Top Writer, but it doesn't matter anymore. I write about Portugal, I think.