Have you heard of unusual grief rituals around the world? Attending a funeral for a family member or friend is a common occurrence, with comparable customs and cultural influences passed down through the years. The beginning and end of life are ingrained in the culture, frequently through long-standing customs that make up the farewell ritual.
Death is universal, yet various countries and cultures have diverse ways of mourning a loved one’s death. The faith, beliefs, and traditions of the family all influence the death and burial rites. We’ve selected a few that could surprise or perhaps inspire you.
What is a Death Ritual, and how does one go about doing one?
When a loved one passes away, rituals can help the family decide how to bury the dead. To celebrate the life of their loved ones, family and friends observe mourning customs and conduct various ceremonies.
Civilizations have followed distinct rituals and customs throughout history, which generally revolve around burial or cremation, grief and mourning, and other rites. Today, Western societies (such as American families) frequently select between burying in a grave and cremating for the deceased. Additional activities or rituals give the opportunity for friends and family to engage in the grieving or life celebration of their loved ones.
While many death rituals are related to religious beliefs, many ceremonies are held in a traditional or familial context, and more and more families are blending traditions or choosing different methods to commemorate a life. However, whatever funeral traditions are observed or developed, they can give consolation to the bereaved family, allowing them to find meaning and healing in their grief.
Death/Grief Rituals Around The World
Other countries and cultures have distinct mourning rituals, whereas some societies have specific funeral rites. Here are some of the world’s most unusual dying rites; bear in mind that some may appear to be extremely different from what you’d expect:
- Tearing a piece of clothing: Immediate family members rip a piece of their clothes as a sign of the loss and sadness they are suffering in Jewish tradition.
- Sky Burials: Although it may come as a surprise, an estimated 80% of Tibetan Buddhists prefer sky burial to ground burial as a more natural manner of returning the deceased to nature fully. This ancient death ceremony concludes with the body being placed outside, usually on a hilltop, to be eaten by birds of prey.
- Scattering at Sea: For example, Hong Kong is extremely populated, with few burial places accessible. In Hong Kong, cremation is chosen by 90% of local families. Many individuals can’t afford or don’t want to pay for a pricey cremation niche, and bringing the ashes home is frowned upon. As a result, an ash dispersal ritual at sea is becoming increasingly popular.
- Burial Beads: Because there is a scarcity of burial space in South Korea, families are forced to think outside the box to remember their loved ones. Pressing cremated bones into multicolored beads is a popular procedure. The ornate beads are then used to create a display in a bottle or urn.
- Church Bells: The ringing of church bells is a common manner for people all over the world to memorialize a loved one, with varying customs regarding the number of rings and the length of time the bells ring out over a town.
- Jazz Funeral: The jazz funeral ritual was brought to New Orleans, Louisiana, and other families in various locations by a mix of African and European cultures. Live musicians walk and play instruments during the funeral procession, frequently singing melancholy melodies at the start. Following the burial, a post-funeral party is held with vibrant, joyous music to commemorate the life of the deceased.
- Pyre Cremation: Hindu cremation sites on the banks of the Ganges River work around the clock to provide cremation services for Indian families. The loved one is wrapped in brilliant, colorful cloth and religious ceremonies are performed. The body is then brought to the cremation place on a bamboo stretcher.
- Dancing with the Dead: In Madagascar, this death ritual takes place five to seven years after the first burial. The exhumation of a loved one allows the family to remove the burial clothes and replace it with new shrouds. The crypt is then sealed for another five to seven years with a placing ceremony. The “turning of the bones” or “dancing with the dead” is a term used to describe this behavior.
- Hanging Coffins: A typical dying ceremony in the Philippines’ northern regions is to create a beautiful casket and then bury it on the edge of a cliff. Family members engage in particular rites before the loved one is placed in the casket, such as sitting the individual on a “death chair” and covering them with a blanket.
Modern Death Rituals
In modern funeral traditions, major cultural influences or strands of tradition are frequently woven throughout the service. When attending a memorial service for a loved one, you may encounter any of the following current death rituals:
- Funeral Procession: Funeral ceremonies and burial sites are sometimes held in separate locales. Pallbearers carry the casket to the hearse after the funeral is completed. This funeral car leads the route to the cemetery, followed by a procession of relatives and friends.
- A handful of Earth: As the casket is lowered into the ground, family members watch. Then, one by one, funeral attendants approach the casket and put handfuls of earth atop it. This custom is popular in many cultures, and it represents a person’s return to the soil.
- Clothing: Dressing in black during a period of mourning dates back to Roman times and is still practiced in many cultures today. Wearing darker colors indicates that a person is in mourning in certain cultures, but other cultures may have different dress rules for funeral rites.
- Mourning: After a funeral, it’s usual for a grieving phase to last for a certain amount of time. Mourning is an external manifestation of sadness in certain cultures, such as weeping or crying. In some cultures, mourning is shown by wearing black or remaining at home for several weeks or months following a death.
- Wake: While the wake death ritual has its roots in religious rites, it may today be performed in a non-religious manner. Between the time of death and the funeral, friends and loved ones look after family members. These actions demonstrate commitment and affection.
- Drive-Thru Funerals: While drive-thru funerals have existed for a long time, their popularity has soared as a result of COVID-19 epidemic limitations. Family and friends welcome the family via the window as they pass by in a car during this dying rite.
Your family can pick from a range of funeral customs, but keep in mind the most important aspect of funeral planning: select the rites and practices that best suit your tastes and family traditions. There is no right or wrong way to honor a loved one, so concentrate on crafting a meaningful, unique ceremony or event that reflects their values, beliefs, and even style or personality.