Regardless of your culture, funerals and their adjacent traditions are engraved in modern society. Perhaps not as intricate as honoring the dead was during ancient times, there is a deeply rooted connection between funeral rites, cultural traditions, and religion.
Different religions and different countries have developed their own rituals to bury their dead — though most modern funerals are interconnected with the feeling of grief and losing our loved ones, some cultures see it as a celebration of life. It’s hard to fathom throwing a celebration to honor the death of a beloved friend or family member, but some cultures connect spiritually with death and consider a departure from present life, as the entryway into a new one.
Funeral Caring USA has compiled a list to learn about different sub-cultural funeral traditions and how drastically they differ from our own.
You’ll be surprised to learn that we don’t have to travel very far to learn about a peculiar funeral rite.
New Orleans’ Jazz Funeral
Relating jazz music to a funeral may seem anything but cathartic to a person in mourning, but the people of New Orleans consider their jazz funerals customary. A typical jazz funeral begins with family and friends of the deceased marching to the sound of somber dirges from a marching band, usually headed for the church or cemetery.
People march along the city and when the deceased has been put to rest, a change in the ambience and tenor begins.
After members of the procession have said their last goodbyes, the music becomes upbeat, often spiritual hymns played in a swinging fashion, and people dance and sing along to the tune. The people of New Orleans consider this a cathartic way to celebrate the life of their loved one. Songs such as When the Saints Go Marching In and Nearer My God to Thee are pieces typically played at these celebrations of life.
South Korean Cremation Beads
Although only a handful of South Koreans identify with the religion, South Korean funerals are rooted in Confucianism. They involve an intricate rite of helping the dead cross over to the other side, because it’s part of a family’s duty to their deceased family members to honor and remember them to pass safely onto the afterlife.
These rites involve keeping their deceased loved ones in house for 3-5 days depending on the season, dressing them in grave clothes, placing coins over their eyes, and filling their mouths with rice.
Recent problems with overpopulation have forced South Korean citizens to turn to cremation as a burial alternative. Koreans don’t consider urns a proper way to honor their dead, so they developed a ritual in which their loved one’s ashes are turned into beads—or cremation beads—to be displayed in their home as a way to honor them and assist with their passing.
The last thing South Koreans want is for the spirit of their family member to become a wandering ghost.
Mexico’s Día de los Muertos
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican funeral rite celebrated on November 1st and 2nd to honor the memory of the dead. It developed as a combination of pre-existing Catholic rites like All Souls Day and diverse Mexican native customs, dating back to the Aztec empire. In Mexico City, the celebration begins on October 31st.
Graveyards are filled with people decorating and cleaning the tombs of their loved ones and the following morning, people build home altars with traditional symbolism like skulls and Aztec Marigold Flowers, and leave food and beverages for the departed, visiting graves with gifts for the deceased.
It is not uncommon to find Mariachis and singers offering their services to lively the ambience. Some Mexican states even prepare cultural programs to celebrate this monumental day.
Funerals Are a Reflection of Someone’s Spirituality
While more traditional, contemporary funerals involve a funeral service with friends and family members, eulogies, religious readings, and music, some cultures follow funeral rituals that may be considered eclectic or out of the norm. Regardless of what culture you belong to though, we all believe in a general consensus: honoring our deceased loved ones.