Scritto da Jean-Claude Luvini il 12/11/21
When a person dies, in many cultures coffee plays an important role. Its black color reflects the mystery of death, the loneliness of nothingness. But drinking it together provides comfort and recalls us to life.
We'll take you on a journey to discover its role in funeral rituals practised in Syria, Naples and Germany.
Coffee in Syria is an integral part of every ceremony or social interaction. Important moments are always marked by the offering of coffee. During the wake, women talk to each other about the deceased and prepare coffee in finely crafted coffee pots with long curved spouts. They serve it in small cups, without sugar. The bitter coffee is a reminder of the gravity of the moment, the sadness of the loss. The men sit in a circle and silently listen to a cantor reading from the Koran. A family member serves them coffee continuously for three days.
In Naples, the ancient custom of the 'Cuonzolo' is still practised: a small present brought to the home of those who have lost a loved one, with the aim of consoling and helping them in their time of grief. On the morning of the funeral, the family of the deceased would receive food and coffee. This is to give them the strength to face a heavy and tiring day. It is also traditional for neighbours to bring sugar and coffee on the following days. Two goods that symbolise energy and life. They also have the practical advantage of preserving themselves for a long time.
But also in Germany, the funeral ritual includes coffee. It is called Trauerkaffee, literally "mourning coffee". It is organised after the funeral. People get together to drink coffee and eat cake. After the gravity of the ceremony at the cemetery, this is a time for breathing, more relaxed and convivial. Stories about the deceased person are told, good times spent together are smiled at.
For all these cultures and many others around the world, even in the saddest of times, coffee is a symbol of connection. A way to communicate our closeness, our not being alone.