Mercy Meal Traditions and Etiquette

Published September 23, 2020
Gathering together for mercy meal

A mercy meal allows a family to connect and enjoy a meal after their loved one's death. Learn more about what a mercy meal is and what happens at a mercy meal.

What Is a Mercy Meal?

In the Greek Orthodox and Catholic religions, a mercy meal is offered after the burial service. The mercy meal is an informal event that allows the family to gather and celebrate the deceased's life with one another. It's very similar to a funeral repast offered by other religions.

What Is Makaria?

You'll often see a mercy meal called a Makaria or Meal of Mercy. The word Makaria means blessed or meal of blessings. However, Makaria or Macaria is also the name for the Greek goddess of a blessed death in Greek mythology.

What Happens During a Mercy Meal After a Funeral?

During the mercy meal, mourners celebrate their loved one's life and offer condolences to the family. They also have the opportunity to relax from the stringent rituals of the Trisagion service, funeral, and burial by enjoying each other's company.

The Food at a Mercy Meal

One of the most important aspects of a mercy meal is the meal itself. During this meal, the focus is still on God; therefore, the main dish is fish. Why? Because this was the first dish of the Lord after his resurrection. However, just because fish is the main dish, it doesn't mean that other entrees and foods aren't served. In fact, there are several foods included on the menu for a mercy meal like:

  • Greek salad

  • Rice pilaf

  • Fruit

  • Beverages

  • Greek feta cheese pies (tiropita)

  • Greek-Italian biscotti (paximthia)

  • Brandy

The meal may be catered or cooked by the family, and typically, desserts are not part of the menu. Additionally, if requested, guests and family members may bring dishes to the feast.

Grilled Halibut with Capers

Family First

Like any other post-funeral gathering, it is essential to support the family, which means letting them enjoy the food first. Therefore, allow the family to have enough time to get their plates and get settled before getting your own meal.

Reflect and Sharing

In the Greek Orthodox religion, priests are the only ones to offer prayers and words to the deceased. Therefore, the mercy meal is when family and friends can give their eulogy for their family members. The floor can also be opened up for anyone to celebrate the deceased through the sharing of memories. Eulogies can also be given at the Trisagion Service.

Mercy Meal Gifts

Mercy meals are not an appropriate time to give bereavement gifts. Mercy meals are about celebrating that person's life and gathering. While gifts of support and flower arrangements are always an appreciated gesture for a suffering family, it's essential to give these at the appropriate times. During a mercy meal, the family will be talking with loved ones and connecting; therefore, they won't have time to handle a gift.

Mercy Meal Attendance

The mercy meal is the perfect time to show your respect for the deceased; therefore, your attendance is expected if you attended the burial. However, this can vary in specific cultures. Some might only open up the mercy meal to close relatives. Regardless, if the family invited you to the mercy meal, it is polite to attend and give pay your respects.

Where Is a Mercy Meal?

The location of this event is typically up to the family. They can choose to have the meal at a local restaurant, catered within the church itself, or at the families home. The critical part of the mercy meal is that the guests are comfortable and connecting.

The Importance of Coming Together

When you lose a loved one, families need to come together to offer support and heal. A mercy meal, much like a repast, allows a family to connect and celebrate a precise life together over food and drinks.

Mercy Meal Traditions and Etiquette