Cremation is a tradition with a long history, but it’s only relatively recently that it has exploded in popularity in the West. Historically and traditionally, burial has been the preferred option for the average person – but now, that trend seems to be reversing.
Why are more people pursuing cremation as a way of handling remains?
There are several plausible explanations, and each may play a role in shaping this trend.
More Options Than Ever Before
One interesting development to notice is that there are more options for cremation than ever before. Cremation has always been a possibility with significant options for people pursuing it, granting them freedom and flexibility that they don’t have with other methods.
Arguably the most conventional path forward is to choose a traditional urn in which to house the remains. But this is only the tip of the iceberg in the modern era. If you don’t like standard urns available, you can customize your own urn from scratch – or develop artwork designed to house your loved one’s remains. You can even have your loved one’s ashes turned into a piece of jewelry, embedded in a coral reef, or scattered at a particular location that your loved one felt a connection to.
If you’re searching for a sentimental keepsake, if you want to keep your options as open as possible when it comes to ceremonies and rituals, or if you just like the idea of having a wide range of options to explore, cremation becomes very attractive.
Since there are new cremation display and ceremony options emerging on an almost daily basis, it stands to reason that the trend of favoring cremation is likely to continue in the near future.
The Secularization of Modern Society
For the first time since these kinds of data measurements began to be made, the number of people in the United States regularly attending a house of worship has dropped to below 50 percent. Traditional burial in a cemetery has long been associated with major religions around the world, and particularly with Christianity, the most popular religion in the United States.
However, now that people are increasingly staying away from organized religion and following their own principles and beliefs, there’s less reason than ever to pursue tradition for the sake of tradition. As society becomes more secular, we should expect to see this trend continue, with more cremations and fewer traditional burials.
Some people are motivated to pursue cremation because of environmental concerns. Burying a body in a cemetery takes up a lot of space, and that land can never be used for farming, building, or other conventional purposes again. In addition, the burial process impacts the environment in a variety of ways, such as using more resources and introducing embalming fluid into the environment.
From an environmental standpoint, cremation is superior in most respects. There are other environmentally friendly ways to handle a body after death emerging as well, such as “aquamation” and the use of mushrooms to facilitate faster decomposition after burial.
Evolving Views on Death
In line with the increasing secularization of society, we’re experiencing evolving views on death. People are increasingly likely to see death as more abstract and detached, and they’re therefore less likely to feel a need to view or maintain an intact body after death.
Higher Traditional Funerary Costs
The median price of a traditional funeral, complete with burial and viewing, is around $7,848. Direct cremation is a mere $2,550, and cremation with a viewing and funeral is still less than a traditional funeral, at a median price of $6,970. As funeral costs rise in line with most other expenses, people are increasingly searching for cost effective options. If you’re working with a limited budget, or if your loved one explicitly expressed concerns for the expenses associated with a funeral, cremation becomes much more attractive.
Some people become interested in cremation because it offers easy, convenient prearrangement. If you know you want to be cremated after you die, you can make all the arrangements in advance, choosing your cremation provider, customizing an urn, and leaving instructions for your loved ones to follow.
Acceptance and Snowballing Popularity
The popularity of cremation also has the effect of proliferating itself. As cremation becomes more popular and more socially acceptable, more people are introduced to it – and more people understand the appeal. If you attend multiple funerals in a given year, and all of those funerals make use of cremation, you’ll probably be more likely to pursue cremation yourself.
Each of these trends likely plays a part in the rising popularity of cremation. And given their trajectory, it’s likely that the popularity of cremation is only going to increase in the future.