Funeral Customs from other Cultures
A line of cars following a hearse to the cemetery, a gathering of mourners recalling stories and watching as a casket is lowered into the ground; this is a common site in America when we honor our departed. In other countries and cultures there are different practices that may seem strange to us, but to the people that practice them are still a very important part of paying homage to those who have left us.
East Asian Funeral Customs
While we normally equate black as the color of mourning, in many Asian cultures white is worn during funerals. For the Chinese, the wearing of red at a funeral is a huge offence, as red is seen as the color of happiness. In fact it is common for brides in China to wear red wedding gowns during their weddings. However some red may be acceptable at the funeral of a person who is very old, as reaching the age they did is something to be celebrated.
Western influences can be seen in the Asian culture, such as the growing acceptance of wearing black to a funeral, or in South Korea where their funeral practices have adopted some influences of the west. Males in the family grieve next to the deceased for a period of three days, during which visitors come and pay their respects. Cremation is increasingly more commonplace with the ashes kept inside a low maintenance columbaria.
European Funeral Customs
For the most part, many European funeral customs are identical to American customs, with some unique exceptions.
Austria’s funerals and traditions are heavily influenced by the Catholic religion. Their funerals also typically become celebratory affairs with live music and fashion showcases.
For Polish born people not being buried in their homeland, at the time of their burial their coffins are sprinkled with soil brought from Poland so they can be one with their native soil.
Similarly, in Scotland a traditional practice included a plate placed upon chest of the deceased at the time of their burial. A small pile of soil and salt was placed upon the plate, with the soil symbolizing a return to the earth and the salt representing the immortality of the soul.
Mexican Funeral Customs
In Mexico the funeral culture has influences from traditional Latin American and Native American roots; these are blended with the spreading influence of Catholicism throughout the country. Mexicans will hold a Catholic funeral service after death and later will celebrate with their native traditions.
The famous Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead is a period of two days from November 1 to November 2 every year where Mexicans hold nationwide celebrations honoring those who have gone before them.
African Funeral Customs
In Western Africa many funerals last as long as a week. A floor burial, the custom of burying the deceased beneath the home, is common practice, without much adherence to ritual. Surviving females will commonly become extremely expressive in displaying their sorrow. The presence of song and drink are also common at these funerals.
Seven years after the death, it is common to hold a memorial service where livestock are gifted to the family, which are subsequently slaughtered and served to all in attendance.
In Kenya, in East Africa, funerals can be rather costly, it is common for bodies to be kept in a morgue while a fundraiser is held to finance the cost of a funeral. It is also common for the bereaved to take a week off from work as they mourn and prepare food for the large feasts that are traditionally held at the funeral service.
All over the world, the death of a loved one is seen as a period of mourning. But it is also a time to celebrate the life lived and the legacy left behind by the loved ones we have lost.