Home burials in Denmark

Burials on private property are creeping up in Denmark, according to a report in the English language paper The Copenhagen Post.

Last year 52 families were granted permission to bury urns on their own properties. However the property has to be at least 5,000 sqm, so the trend is in rural areas rather than in cities.

Burial on private land is permitted in Denmark if it is requested by the deceased in their wills and provided permission is given by the Danish National Church, which has been in charge of all burials in the country since 2008. The owner of the land has to agree not to disturb the plot for 10 years and no monuments are allowed.

All deaths in Denmark must be reported to the offices of the local parish church of residence whatever the religious faith of the deceased, or lack of it, within 48 hours, with a request for burial or cremation. It is then the National Church that reports the death to the national register and the probate court.

All Danish citizens have the right of burial in a cemetery, whatever their religious faith. In the case of ashes they may be sprinkled in the sea, large fjords and bays, but not in lakes and only if a request is made before cremation.

The National Church is Lutheran. Christianity is still the largest faith group in the country, followed by Islam, but most Danes consider themselves secular and church attendance is low. Many cemeteries in Copenhagen are listed as historical monuments and one of the most famous in the city is Assisten Kirkegård, the final resting place for Soren Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen. Created initially as a paupers' cemetery it now once again has a special section for the homeless.

Increasing numbers of Danes are also enquiring about promession, an ecological way of disposing of bodies. The process was invented in Sweden in the 1990s and has been successfully experimented on animals but so far not on humans. No country has yet legalised the process although several, including Sweden and South Korea, are considering it.

Promession involves freeze-drying the body, then placing it in liquid nitrogen, vibrating the brittle remaining parts until they become a sort of organic powder, removing the metal, mercury and pace makers and then placing the pure powder in a bio-degradeable container. This is then buried in top soil and turns into humus within six months to a year.