Whether you live in Europe, or are planning a trip around the world to scatter the ashes of your loved one, you should keep in mind that spreading ashes is legally considered to be the disposal of human remains.
This means that most countries will have special laws stipulating how cremated remains can be handled, so read on to learn more about scattering ashes in Europe.
Scattering in Germany
You may not be surprised to learn that Germany has some of the strictest laws in Europe related to funeral arrangements and cremation. In Germany, laws stipulate that even cremated remains must be buried in a cemetery. That means it is illegal to keep the ashes of your loved one in your home or scatter their ashes. Because of the high funeral costs and strict regulations, many Germans illegally take ashes to Switzerland for ash spreading ceremonies.
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Germany’s restrictive regulations of burial have started to relax in recent years. The city-state of Bremen now allows citizens to keep ashes in the home.
This move is truly a big step and the change has caused a row with Christian Democrats and church representatives. However, the State Parliament went ahead and voted to allow a persons ashes to be scattered on private properties.
There are two problems that makes ashes memorialisation different from the start. First, ashes are not allowed to be at home or scattered, except for Bremen. Cremation Ashes have to be interred at a cemetery or at a woodland burial ground.
Secondly, burial plots aren’t owned they are rented for a period of time 25 to 30 years. Then the grave can be reused – the actual timeframe varies from place to place in the country.
Vatican City & Italy - What you need to know
Although the Catholic Church accepts cremation, it is not permissible to scatter ashes, so you probably don’t want to be caught spreading the ashes of your loved one in Vatican City.
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The church banned cremation for centuries, but began to allow it in 1964, as long as it is not done for reasons at odds with Christian doctrine.
Cremation has also become increasingly popular in Italy, where 33 percent of the deceased in 2017 had opted for it. Rules vary by places and sometimes from town to town. People may be allowed to bury urns inside cemeteries, keep them at home or even scatter the ashes at seas.
Cremation procedures can vary depending on the local council regulations. If you are thinking of arranging a local cremation, please take advice from your local funeral director/ undertaker. Crematoriums are not located in every region therefore there might be longer waiting times depending on the area where the death occurred.
Please note that most crematoriums in Italy don’t have facilities to host a funeral service of any description. The service will need to take place either in Italy (in a church or other location) before the cremation or in the UK after the ashes have been repatriated. Therefore if you wish for a funeral service to be carried out prior to repatriation of the ashes, you should make specific arrangements with your funeral director
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If you live in Italy you might be able to keep the ashes of your loved one at home or scatter them. However, please be aware that this is not always possible as it depends on your local council regulations and you will need to obtain prior authorisation from your Town Hall.
In Italy the authorisation for the cremation is given by the local Registrar (Ufficiale di StatoCivile) who acts on behalf of the local Mayor. The authorisation for the cremation can be issued upon production of a medical certificate stating that the death did not occur under suspicious circumstances and there is no objection to the cremation.
Scattering Ashes in Switzerland
Because of the beautiful scenery, the Alps, Lake Zurich, and other bodies of water, have become favourite locations for scattering ashes, but local Swiss residents haven’t necessarily been happy about this.
After 67 cremation urns were found at the bottom of Lake Zurich in 2010, commercial and professional disposal of human remains outside of a cemetery was banned. It turns out that a local clinic had been dumping up to hundreds of urns into Lake Zurich, hardly a sustainable practice!
The Swiss tend to prefer cremation to burial, so the good news is that individuals can still scatter the ashes of their loved ones, so long as it isn’t done for commercial reasons.
According to Eternal Alpine Glow, a Swiss company that arranges open-air funerals, European Union citizens can have their ashes buried or scattered in the Swiss countryside as there is no obligation to be buried in a cemetery.
The Czech Republic
Scattering ashes has become more popular in recent years in the Czech Republic (80%-20% proportion of cremation vs burial), where you can hold what is called a “farewell ceremony” in a cemetery or spread the ashes in the countryside. You cannot, however, scatter ashes into a body of water, as the ashes are considered to contaminate the water.
There are no special laws or practices that affect when a funeral or cremation will happen in the Czech Republic. Body embalment is not usually mandatory and scattering ashes is permitted in the country.
The practice and customs related to burials have been changing radically in the Czech Republic in recent years, with more and more people having their deceased relatives' ashes scattered, most often at burial meadows but also elsewhere.
The law does not state how the heirs should handle their deceased relative's cremains. It only requires that remains be handled in a way that is dignified and does not jeopardise public health and order.
Laws in France
In France, the laws on scattering ashes are not as lax as in Switzerland, but you still have some options for nontraditional funeral arrangements or cremation. Many crematoriums and cemeteries provide adjoining gardens where you may spread the ashes of your loved one, or place a urn for human ashes. Ashes can also be scattered into bodies of water or anywhere in nature except for public parks and roads.
Here are some more details you should know about cremation in France:
- The law in France dictates that a maximum of 6 days is allowed before cremation takes place and the minimum of 24 hours. This is from the date of death (not including Sundays and Bank Holidays)
- The Departmental Prefecture in the commune where the death occurred or where the cremation is to take place may grant a deferral time period in exceptional circumstances
- Authorisation of a cremation is given by the mayor in the commune where the death occurred.
- Although spreading ashes is permitted, keeping the ashes of your loved one in your home is strictly forbidden and punishable with a steep fine.
- Important to know that when booking a funeral service in the crematorium that the time given is normally not the start time but the committal time only.
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Scattering Cremation ashes in UK
The UK law on scattering human ashes is fairly relaxed. You can choose to scatter the ashes over land or water, but you only need the landowner's permission to do that. We suggest that you consult the local environment agency in case you like to scatter the remains of loved one over river or the sea. Keeping the remains in urn at home or garden is also allowed.
When it comes to keeping, burying and scattering ashes, the laws and regulations state that:
- You are free to scatter ashes anywhere in the United Kingdom, so long as you have the permission of the owner.
- There are specific environmental guidelines covering some locations, like the sea or mountainsides.
- If you are burying the ashes in an urn, rather than scattering them, various rules apply.
If you have permission from the landowner, there are no UK laws or regulations that can keep you from scattering ashes on private land. Just be aware that your family might not always have access to that land.
For more information you can contact our partners in UK.
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The Netherlands. What you need to know before scattering ashes
There are numerous wonderful sites in The Netherlands like the Wadden Sea shoreline, where you can scatter the ashes of a loved one. The laws in Holland are favourable when it comes to scattering or keeping human ashes. However, be noted that every municipality has different rules.
Please, be aware that for some places charges may apply if you scatter the ashes of a loved one.
According to television consumer show Kassa, the Dutch local councils charge wildly differing fees to have the ashes of loved ones scattered following a cremation. The most expensive of the Netherlands’s 400 plus local councils is Hardinxveld-Giessendam where the council charges €1,079.75 to scatter ashes.
Some councils, like Bodegraven do not charge at all. Nijkerk, Papendrecht and Sluis for example charge above €700.
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The average cost of scattering ashes in Holland is around €150. In the Netherlands, by law ash can only be scattered in specially designated areas.
There are some specific prohibitions forbidding the scattering of ashes on busy roads, shopping street, bike paths or from viaducts.
You can surely keep your ashes at home, columbarium or garden in The Netherlands. You can find a suitable memorial at this page.
Denmark - What does the law say?
In Denmark, the laws are quite strict, regarding keeping the ashes at home. The Danish laws allow the families to bury the ashes in the church’s yard or to scatter them, but not to keep them at home. If you prefer to scatter the ashes, you should take into account where it is allowed and where not. For example, you can spread the ashes in the ocean, yet not in lakes or rivers. Ask the nearest funeral agency, they should be aware of the funeral arrangement and cremation laws.
Generally speaking, more Danes are opting out of traditional funeral methods, while social media is becoming a more popular channel through which loved ones are being remembered.Some of the local people even prefer to have their final remains scattered at sea.
In order to ensure that you receive the most current and detailed information, please contact the local authorities directly. If the deceased has indicated his/her wishes for cremation as well as a scattering of ashes ceremony, this will be complied with. Otherwise, you need to decide on this when filling in the request. If the vicar can approve the request, he/she will issue a cremation certificate. The deceased may not be buried or cremated until the cremation certificate has been signed.
Cremation is becoming increasingly popular in Belgium, especially amongst the baby boomer and millennial generation. Among the many reasons for this growing trend is the breadth of options cremation provides for a final memorial service.
Do you know that Belgium and the Netherlands are among the few countries in the world to allow 'bio cremations' ?
The process involve the body being turned into a liquid rather than ashes, using a hot alkaline water-based solution under pressurised conditions.
If you have some particular idea, you need to contact the local municipality, because in some cases you would need the landowner’s permission. However, without any prohibition you have the right to keep the ashes in a ceramic art urn at home, to bury them in your yard, to scatter them in the sea or in the cemetery.
A recent trend shows that more and more people in Sweden are prone to scattering ashes in the countryside.
The laws in Sweden, however are pretty strict. Ashes scattering is forbidden, without a permit, as the ashes have to be buried at a churchyard or in a memorial park. The permit is rarely given to citizen and it is issued by Länsstyrelsen (County Council).
On applying for permission you need to have:
- genealogy table from the IRS (släktutredning från Skatteverket)
- map of the area where you wish to scatter the ashes, with the exact spot
- permission from the land owner (not necessary for spreading at sea, lakes or northern mountains
Whether you would like to bury the urn or to scatter the ashes in designated areas or in the sea, you should first be granted an official form of permission from the local authorities.
Certainly in Sweden it is better to keep the ashes, rather than scatter them.
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Scattering Ashes in Spain
Although the Catholic Church has been clearly condemning the idea of dispersing human remains into the wild and open areas, the Spanish lawmakers has elaborated some loopholes for the families that want to scatter the cremains. For example, scattering in the ocean, at designated places in a cemetery and in the nature is allowed.
However if you want to scatter the ashes at sea, near the coast/beach they have to be taken out on a certain distance from the shoreline. There are certain rules and if you don't follow them the fines may go up to 15,000€ in some areas.
Please, contact the local authorities for more information, as each municipality has it's own rules and regulations that need to be followed.
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In Hungary, the proportion of people who choose the preservation of ashes at home in a cremation urn is considerably higher than those who prefer scattering. However, the demand for scattering ashes in Hungary has increased recently. When deciding where to spread the ashes of our loved ones, we can select between sites like churches and temples, or by obtaining the indispensable documents, we can scatter the ashes in different places in the countryside.
Here you can find more information about cremation laws in Hungary.
Norway's legal position on keeping cremains at home is a bit strict. The law stipulates that the preservation of human remains at Norwegian home is illegal.
Remains must be buried or cremated within ten business days, according to the Norwegian Funeral Act.
Remains can be cremated, unless it was against the wishes of the deceased. Cremation must take place in an authorised crematorium no less than ten business days after the death.
The percentage of Danes and Swedes opting for cremation is around 70%+, which is nothing surprising comparable with many secular progressive democracies, but Norway figures range from 36% (Wikipedia) to 41% (recent survey conducted in Norway)
In Norway cremations must be reported to the police no less than three days before they take place.
Ashes may not be split, and is stored in a sealed urn by the crematorium or local burial authorities until disposition of the ashes have been determined.
Cremains can be buried (must take place no less than six months after the cremation), be spread (by application to the County Governor “Fylkesmann” only), or exported.
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However, ashes can be scattered at open sea, into the wind or at a specially designated places, where the municipality will be willing to give you permission after filling some documents.
When it comes to scattering ashes Finland's law is fairy relaxed. You can choose between scattering the ashes into the wind, pouring them onto the sea, keeping them at home and even bury them in the countryside. If you choose to scatter the ashes into an open area, you must have a written permit from the landowner or water cooperative prior to scattering the ashes. A registration certificate to the title to the property that proves who owns the land or waterway must also be presented.
According to a recent study, more and more people in Finland tend to keep their ashes at home or a specially chosen place.
If you need further information about transporting the ashes, visit this article.
Lots of Options - Scattering or keeping at home
Whether you want to scatter your loved one’s remains in nature, house them in a ceramic art urn, or both, if your loved one has been cremated, you have plenty of options, so feel free to get creative.
Here are some ideas from our blog:
If you decide to keep the ashes at home, Pulvis Art Urns is the ideal choice. We offer unique memorials that are more than just a regular urns for ashes. Use the coupon READER10 at checkout to receive 10% discount for your order.
Feel free to visit our product page and find a suitable memorial. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.