Many funeral ceremonies end with family members, relatives and close friends of the deceased throwing a handful of dirt or soil on the coffin. This is a common practice that can be found across cultures, but what does this signify?

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Before leaving the cemetery, the deceased’s loved ones may toss a handful of dirt or soil on the coffin. Put simply, this is to symbolize that the deceased has returned to where he came from – man comes from the earth, and so must he return to earth. Usually, a spouse or a close family member will be the first to throw dirt on the coffin, followed by others who were close to them.

While it may be easy to believe the significance of this practice is religious, that is not always the case. It is a great way of showing solidarity during times of mourning. Engaging in a common ritual such as this allows people to come together and lean on each other for support during tough times. Throwing dirt on the coffin also allows those present for the funeral to fully commit themselves to the service and understand the depth and meaning that such rituals hold.

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Throwing dirt on coffins in Christian culture

During a Christian burial, while dirt is being thrown on the coffin, the priest or whoever is officiating the funeral service often says the phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” This means that at death, the soul is released from the body, leaving the body to turn to dust.

Moreover, throwing soil on the coffin also symbolizes that the deceased has gone to their final resting place – the earth. It is widely believed that this ritual is inspired by the early Egyptian’s practice of placing sand on the body of the deceased before they were buried.

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