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What are Calling Hours?

Terminology is a tricky thing when it comes to funerals and memorial services. You may have heard the term "calling hours," but you may not be sure what it is exactly. If you've been invited to attend calling hours, you may be unsure of what to expect.

What are calling hours?

Calling hours are a set time for friends, family, and other acquaintances of the decedent to come together. Calling hours are an intimate gathering for those who knew the deceased to support each other in their time of grief, remember the life of the deceased, give condolences to the family, and to pay their respects to the deceased.

If you've ever attended a "wake" or a "viewing,” you've attended "calling hours.” They are the same thing, just by different names. Calling hours are usually held in the evening of the day before a funeral or memorial service, although they may be held on the same day as well.

Where did calling hours come from?

Calling hours have their roots in the traditions of England and Ireland. During these periods of time, it was customary for people to visit the home of the deceased prior to a funeral or memorial service. Nowadays, calling hours can be called different things, all with the same meaning -- many people refer to calling hours as a viewing, a visitation, or a wake.

Calling hours vs. wake vs. visitation vs. viewing -- what's the difference?

A viewing is a very similar service to both "wake" and "calling hours" -- these are all times for friends, family and other acquaintances to come together in a more intimate setting than a funeral or memorial service. Here are the primary differences between these types of services:

If the body of the deceased isn't present and there's a set time to offer condolences, it's considered a visitation or calling hours.

If the body is present during this time, it's typically considered a viewing.

A wake is technically very similar to a visitation, but can sometimes have a religious component that involves prayers and sermons being given by a priest. Wakes are typically associated with the Irish and Catholic funerals.

Will the body be present at the calling hours?

It depends on the family and their preferences -- in some cases, the body of the deceased may be present during calling hours. However, many families opt not to have the body present at calling hours for a variety of reasons.

At times when the body is not present, family members or close friends may create a display that honors the life of the deceased. This display may include photographs, mementos, and other items that were important to them in life.

No matter what the family chooses, calling hours can be a meaningful way for friends and family of the deceased to pay their respects and share their grief with loved ones. Attending calling hours can be an important way to honor the life of the deceased and support their grieving family. It is also a time for friends and family to come together in this trying time and remember the life of their loved one.

What should I wear to calling hours?

Typically, calling hours are considered a structured and more formal event -- as such, calling hours attire is typically more formal. It's customary to dress in attire similar to what you'd wear for a funeral, typically a dark or neutral suit or dress.

However, the family may prefer a more informal setting for the calling hours, in which case wearing a casual yet respectful outfit, such as slacks and a nice shirt, is appropriate. If you're in doubt, you can always check in with the family, or dress in a nicer outfit in darker colors.

It's important to remember that calling hours are a time of remembrance and respect for the deceased and their family, so it would be appropriate to dress respectfully as well. Women should avoid wearing heavy makeup or revealing clothing, while men should avoid wearing shorts, sandals, or other casual attire.

Should I attend calling hours?

It is up to each individual to decide whether or not to attend calling hours. If you have a close relationship with the family or the deceased, attending calling hours is a respectful way to show your support and offer condolences during this difficult time. You may also want to consider sending a card or flowers, as well as making a donation in the deceased's honor, if possible.

At the end of the day, attending calling hours is a personal decision -- whatever you decide to do, it should come from a place of respect and understanding for the deceased and their family. It is an opportunity to mourn someone who has passed away and connect with all those who are grieving their loss. By showing your support, you can help all those who have lost a loved one during this difficult time.

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Last updated December 30, 2022
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