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5 More Funeral Traditions from Around the Globe

Death is a universal happening, we all come into this world, and we will all leave it. However, much like our birth story, the story and celebration of our death will be different for each person. Throughout the world, different cultures approach death in distinct ways. Today, we will explore five more funeral traditions from around the globe.  


          Asia- Hanging Coffins

Throughout many different Asian countries, you will find some similarities in the customs surrounding death. In places such as China, Indonesia and the Philippines it would not be uncommon to see coffins suspended high inside caves or on cliff faces, some dating back thousands of years. This tradition often followed a long funeral ritual, including butchering of livestock, mourning, and carrying the body to the cliff where the coffin is waiting. The Igorots of the Northern Philippines carried out the sacred ritual as their belief was the higher the dead were placed, the better chance their spirit had of reaching the afterlife. In other countries, such as China- the coffins were discovered to hold the bones of many bodies, leading researchers to believe the bodies would have been buried first and transported after decomposition. 




          New Orleans- Jazz Funerals

Music plays a largely important role in the of New Orleans and especially so in their funeral traditions. Heavily influenced by the West African slaves- this celebration after a service was meant to uplift a departed slave in their freedom in death. During the 19th century, as jazz music became popular in New Orleans, this tradition grew into what we know today.  Music accompanies mourners from the funeral home or church to the burial site, during which the “First Line” leads the procession. This first line includes a brass band, percussion, the family and the casket. The “Second Line” is onlookers and other mourners who have joined in behind the band. During the initial procession, the music played is slow and somber, often with traditional hymns. After ceremonies at the cemetery, the mood shifts, and the band begins to play up-beat tunes- meant to help the deceased on their journey to heaven and to celebrate their life. These funerals are deeply rooted in tradition and continue to play a huge part in the heritage of the African American Community of New Orleans.



          India- Open Pyre Cremations

Varanasi is considered the holiest city in Hinduism. Hindu belief states that a cremation in Varanasi and spreading ones ashes in the Ganges will allow the soul to reach Nirvana and escape the rebirth cycle (called Moksha). Every day in Varanasi there are hundreds of funeral processions, all ending at the cremation ghat that runs 24/7. Hundreds of bodies are cremated each day in plain sight while people tend to each funeral pyre, sometimes through the night until the cremation is complete. After the cremation takes place, the ashes are collected and scattered over the Ganges.



          South Korea- Burial Beads

Like many countries, South Korean funeral customs are changing with the ever-growing population. Due to it small size, burial space in South Korea is at a premium. In 2000, a law was passed that required families to remove the bodies of their deceased from their graves after 60 years. Unlike their western counterparts who have opted for urns to house cremains, one South Korean company has opted to turn cremains into decorative beads.  The beads are small and gem-like, in colors such as blue, green, pink, or black and are meant to be a physical representation of the deceased. They are not meant to be turned into jewelry, but rather displayed in a decorative container.

 



          Indonesia- Ma’nene

Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s largest islands and home to members of the Toraja people, whose funeral customs are some of the most elaborate in the country. Funerals are a very social and public affair and can be very costly. Many families must delay these ceremonies for a few days and sometimes even months or years until they can afford a proper send-off. During this waiting period, the deceased’s body is kept in the family home. After the funeral celebrations take place, ma’nene carried out every one, two, or three years. The family will revisit their dead loved ones, remove them from their resting place to clean the area and clean and redress them in new clothes. Family will also offer food, drink, and sometimes things such as sweets or other non-essential items.





 
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