In some cultures, funerals are a time for somber recollection. A quiet, subdued affair to reflect upon the life that was lost. In other countries, funerals serve as a joyous occasion to celebrate a life well lived. We’ve compiled some interesting funeral traditions to expand your horizons and to perhaps give you some creative ideas in your own funeral planning.
Africa has many lively funeral customs to honor their dead. Many countries on this continent believe that the spirit lives on in the form of ancestors who guide the living. Because of this, many African cultures go all out in celebrating when someone dies.
In Nigeria, the Igbo tribe celebrates death with two funerals. The first burial is the smaller one, a brief time for mourning, while the physical body is buried. The second burial, known as Ikwa Ozu, takes place a few weeks later, and is when the big celebration occurs. A multi-day affair, this party includes a bull slaughter, drumming and poetry.
Ghana has a very interesting ritual of honoring their deceased with ‘fantasy coffins.’ These elaborate coffins reflect the interests or career of the one who passed away. Some coffin themes have included ones made in the shape of cars, planes, even a chili pepper and a soda bottle!
Before burial, a seven-day wake occurs in Chinese culture. During this time, called shou ling, family members take turns sitting with the body to show their loyalty by keeping them company. Visiting mourners bring flowers, banners with pictures of family, food offerings or joss paper. Joss paper is paper money, made to look like real money, that is burned at a funeral. The Chinese burn the joss paper to ‘give’ money to the deceased so that they can be rich in the afterlife.
Sometimes the Joss paper is shaped into desirable goods, such as cars, and jewelry. More recently the paper has been shaped into electronic devices, such as phones and laptops!
When it comes to the ceremony, according to tradition, elders need not mourn or offer prayers if the deceased is younger than them. Many Chinese people will wear white or subdued colors to a ceremony, as the color white is associated with death in many Asian cultures. Sometimes, a white banner will be hung at the home of the one who passed away. If the deceased passed away over the age of 80, mourners will typically wear pink, as it is more of a celebratory event, as reaching 80 is considered a major milestone in this culture.
In Thailand, when someone dies, their body is kept at home for one week before they are cremated. Most people chose this method of disposition due to their Buddhist or Hindu beliefs. While the body is at home, it is prayed over.
After someone dies, the Thai people take part in an interesting ritual, called the Bathing Ceremony. During this time, a jug of water is poured on everyone’s hands, including the one who passed away. They then tie a sacred white string, called a sai sin), blessed by a monk to the ankle and wrists of the deceased. Furthermore their hands are then placed into a praying position, and also have a lotus flower and incense sticks put into their hand. Sometimes a coin is placed into their mouth for the afterlife.
After the Bathing Ceremony, four monks will be invited to chant daily for the deceased, taking place for about 5-7 days before the body is cremated. On the day of cremation, more chanting takes place, and food is offered to the monks. Once the food has been consumed, a procession will take place to the crematorium. On the way there, the procession will circle a Thai Temple counterclockwise 3 times. After arriving at the crematorium the coffin is placed on a wooden table and surrounded by their favorite flowers. Prayers and and eulogy will then occur, during this 30 minute to one hour ceremony. At the completion, mourners will leave a wooden flower under the casket.
With 93% of Thai people identifying as Buddhist, the ceremony usually follows Buddhist guidelines. Reincarnation is believed in Buddhism, so the funeral is seen as a passage into the next life. More celebrations can occur at 50 and 100 days after their loved ones death.
There are so many more wonderfully unique funeral customs around the world; this is really just the tip of the iceberg. If these special ceremonies have left you feeling inspired, please feel free to contact us at Raynor and D’Andrea to start pre-planning your funeral today. It is really a beautiful gift you can leave behind to your loved ones; there is no greater blessing than peace of mind. You can call our West Sayville location at (631) 589-2345 or our Bayport location at (631) 472-0122.