A reader writes …
“There has been so much funeral coverage on TV lately … I am wondering, what is the difference between a coffin and a casket?”
Good question. We did some research on this in 1997, so here’s a chance to add to that and relate our findings to you.
Many times, especially in the United States, the terms are used interchangeably. In Europe, we find the distinction is made more frequently.
Per several authoratative funeral sources …
A coffin is wider at the shoulder and tapers toward the feet. This shape was employed to save on the cost of wood as there was no need for width all the way to the bottom. This style is still found in Europe today. Coffins are sometimes very simple pine boxes, unlined and unadorned. Fancier coffins are lined, have a coffin plate of brass or silver with the deceased’s name and dates and sometimes a sentiment, and have three metal handles on either side for the six pallbearers to grasp on the way to the grave.
Princess Diana’s burial container is a traditional, tapered, heavy oak, flag-draped coffin.
06 September 1997
A casket originally referred to (and is defined in the dictionary as) a small chest for storing and carrying jewels or precious objects. A burial casket is a rectangular container of the same width from top to bottom. It is generally padded and lined, and goes into the ground after the grave has been lined with a vault. A casket usually opens at the top so the head and shoulders of the deceased may be viewed at the wake, and has the customary three handles on either side for pallbearers.
Michael Jackson’s burial container was a fancy, rectangular, gold-plated, solid bronze, velvet-lined casket.
07 July 2009