A pallbearer is one of several funeral participants who helps carry the casket, usually covered with a pall, of a deceased person from a religious or memorial service or viewing either directly to a cemetery or mausoleum, or to and from the hearse which carries the coffin.
A pall, which recalls the white garments given in baptism, as well as the Resurrection of Christ at Easter, is the heavy (and usually white-coloured) cloth that is draped over a coffin. The term "pallbearer" is used to signify someone who bears the coffin which the pall covers.
Some traditions distinguish between these two roles, with pallbearer being a ceremonial position, just carrying a tip of the pall or a cord attached to it, while casket bearers do the actual heavy lifting and carrying. There may otherwise be only pallbearers in the literal sense while the casket is on an animal, or on an animal-drawn or motorized vehicle.
In western cultures, the pallbearers are usually male family members (Sons, Grandsons, Nephews or Sons-in-law etc.), close friends, or colleagues of the deceased. In some Asian cultures, pallbearers are not to be members of the family but are outsiders, given a tip to perform the services of pall-bearer.
A pall-bearer in the USA will carry a casket by the handles, and at around waist height. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the casket is carried on the shoulders, and the handles are for the most part decorative. All lifting should be done from underneath the casket.
- "Making Funeral Preparations: A Guide for Preparing Death and the Funeral Liturgy". Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. p. 2. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
The coffin may be covered with a pall, recalling the white garment given in Baptism, the robe of Christ's righteousness that clothes us. The pall also reminds us that in death and before God all people are equal, regardless of whether the coffin is simple or elaborate. The white color of the pall is a reminder of Easter and Christ's victory over death.
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