Why Do They Cover the Face Before Closing a Casket


In many countries, cultures, and religions, death is followed by a burial and a funeral service. For the departed loved ones, the funeral is a celebration of life, an opportunity to say goodbye, and a starting point for recovery. In many cases, the face of the departed is covered before the casket is closed and they are put in their grave. 

The face of the deceased is covered before the casket is closed because of old rituals and superstitions about the eyes and the mouth. Furthermore, covering the face provides an opportunity for the departed person’s loved ones to say a final goodbye. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll explain why the face of the deceased is usually covered before the casket is closed, how a face is prepared for a funeral, and other body parts that are covered in a casket. 

Why Is the Face Covered When the Casket Is Closed?

The face of the departed is usually covered before the casket is closed because of old ideas about the spiritual quality of the face. Additionally, the departed loved ones will likely not want to see the departed’s face as the casket closes.  

Before the casket is closed, the departed’s face is usually covered with a sheet or other covering. This tradition most likely comes from older, superstitious rituals that varied with religious perception and culture. 

The face has historically been seen as the spiritual hub of the body. The eyes of corpses were traditionally closed and covered because they were considered a portal between the living and spirit worlds. Additionally, the mouth was covered by a sheet in pagan cultures because they believed the spirit escaped through the mouth.  

Today, many people don’t necessarily believe in spirits or in the original reasons for covering the face. Still, funerals are traditional practices, so they continue to cover the faces of the departed because that’s how it has been done for years. 

A woman sits beside a closed coffin at the cemetery

Another reason they cover the face before the casket is closed is that doing so may make it easier for those witnessing the burial to accept the death of their loved one, say goodbye, and begin their grieving process.   

Human beings process most of their emotions through their face, and we all share as many as sixteen expressions, including anger, joy, sadness, amusement, and desire, to name a few. Because of this, many people consider the face to be the most “lifelike” and “human” part of the body, and it is the part of the body that is most closely associated with someone’s personality and spirit. 

For this reason, it would be extremely difficult to look at the face of someone you love as the casket closes. Therefore, to make the experience less overwhelming and painful for those grieving, they cover the face before closing the casket.

How Is a Body’s Face Prepared?

The embalmer does many things to prepare a body’s face for a funeral, including shaving, closing the eyes, securing the mouth, applying makeup, and styling the hair. 

Even though the body’s face is ultimately covered in the end, embalmers work hard to ensure that it looks nice and true to the person for the funeral service. 

Here’s how an embalmer prepares a face: 

  1. Shaving: Embalmers shave all facial hair and peach fuzz off the face of the deceased. 
  2. Closing the eyes: Embalmers use glue or eye caps to ensure that the eyelids stay in place and the eyes remain closed. 
  3. Securing the mouth: When someone dies, their muscles relax, so the mouth falls open. Therefore, embalmers must keep the jaw in place with wiring or sewing. 
  4. Applying makeup: How much makeup is used depends on how the person died and how long it has been. In most cases, the embalmer will apply moisturizing lotion to the face, then use makeup to try and make the face look as lifelike as possible. Usually, embalmers apply lots of powder to absorb any secreted oil.
  5. Styling the hair: The embalmer usually washes and brushes the hair. Then, they style it, usually how the deceased styled it while they were alive. The same wig would be put on the body if they wore a wig. 

This preparation allows mourners to see their loved one as they remember them before their face is covered.  

What Body Parts Are Covered in a Casket?

The bottom half of the body is often covered by the casket for public viewings and funerals. In contrast, the face is usually only covered just before the casket is closed. 

If you’ve ever gone to an open casket funeral, you may have noticed that the bottom half of the body is occasionally covered. Whether or not to cover half of the body depends on the departed’s wishes before they passed, their loved ones, and the funeral director. 

For the reasons mentioned above, many people’s priority is to highlight the upper half of the departed’s body, especially their face. Funeral directors also recommend focusing on the upper half of the body and the face because they won’t have to spend the time arranging the legs and torso and can focus on making the face look the best they can. 

For this reason, half-couch caskets are the most popular type of casket. These caskets have a two-piece lid, so only the top half of the casket can be open during the service. This means that people can just focus on the face. 

Another reason many people opt for half-couch caskets is that it is extremely difficult to put shoes on a body, so the deceased usually don’t wear them unless the family requests them. Most of the time, the legs are covered with a blanket. 

With a half-couch casket, mourners can see the face of the person they love before it is covered up and hidden forever when they close the casket.   

Conclusion 

Many modern burial rituals came from older traditions when many believed the face was connected to the spiritual world and needed to be covered to move on properly. Additionally, the face is often seen as the most “human” or “lifelike” part of the body, so it likely makes anyone watching the burial more comfortable when the face is covered before the casket is closed. 

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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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