Funeral Rituals Around the World
Wacky. Creative. Bizarre. Cool. According to your own particular point of view, the following funeral options could be any of the above for you. If you’ve always been someone who looks for off-the-beaten-path life experiences, why not consider making your final adventure one that no one will soon forget!
Even if you aren’t the type of person to take one of these ideas on board, it’s just plain fun to read about what other people do to celebrate or commemorate the end of life.
Hanging Coffins - The Philippines and China
People in certain regions of these countries believe that the closer a person is to the sky, the better chance they’d make it to heaven. As a result, families have long practiced nailing coffins onto cliff faces high above the ground to give them their best shot at making it. The practice is reputedly two thousand years old and was first done out of a cultural fear of burials. It then evolved into something a bit more spiritual in nature and expanded to include another ritual involving placing the deceased in a chair facing the main entrance of their home and smoking the body (yes, like one would smoke a turkey!) while friends and family come by to pay respects. Once this several-day vigil is over, the body is placed in a coffin and lowered onto the cliffside to its final resting place.
Stripper Funerals - China and Taiwan
Want to ensure a good turnout to your going away party? Invite a few strippers! In Taiwan and China, they do just that. Having a well-attended funeral is a matter of personal pride in their cultures, so many people splash out big for their send-off, hosting dances, offering feasts, and yes, hiring strippers to entertain the crowd!
Sky Burials - Tibet
Many Buddhists, including those from Tibet, think that bodies should be either cremated or given over to animals as an act of generosity. With wood being a scarce commodity in Tibet, they usually opt for the latter. The Sky Burial involves putting the deceased person on an elevated platform where vultures pick the corpse clean. Once they have finished, the bones are then ground up to feed cattle. Talk about waste not, want not.
Air Sacrifice - Mongolia
Oh, and Mongolians do a similar thing. They lay the body out and outline it with stones. They then allow wild dogs and birds of prey to do what they do until nothing remains but a stone outline, which is meant to represent the spirit of the departed.
Burial Beads - South Korea
Burial space is at a premium in this small country, so the South Koreans got creative and came up with a way to not only save room, but to turn their deceased loved ones into a kind of decoration. The bodies are cremated and pressed into colourful beads of blue-green, pink or some other chosen hue. Note that grandad is NOT being worn as a necklace. The beads are typically placed in an urn or inside a glass container and kept on display.
Eternal Reefs - USA
In this eco-friendly practice, the ashes of a body are mixed into a concrete-like material and shaped into a hole -filled ball. The ball is then lowered into the sea where it becomes a sort of artificial reef-starter. Marine life move in and coral forms around the ball, naturally growing over time into a new reef.
Jazz Funeral - NewOrleans
Never let it be said the Cajun people of New Orleans don’t know how to give a magnificent send-off. A jazz procession leads the coffin from the funeral home to the grave, playing mournful tunes until they reach their destination. At this point, the music becomes decidedly more cheerful and a party ensues, intended to celebrate the life of the person lost.
There is a practice in Madagascar where people dig up their dead every so often, usually five to seven years, to give them a make-over. After exhumation, they re-wrap the bodies, perfume them, talk to them and party with them, then bury them again until next time.
Fantasy Coffins - Ghana
Ghanian craftsmen from the Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop have famously started making “fun” coffins. Typically having some kind of connection to the person’s life, they can be shaped like cars, fish, airplanes or whatever floated the boat of the person when they were still with us.
“Viking” Funeral- Scandinavia
This ancient practice is not terribly common today, but still does occur. A body is placed in a boat made for this occasion with personal possessions and either sent out to sea or turned into a sort of sarcophagus that is eventually placed in a tomb. Fire is sometimes involved, speeding the process of burial at sea along.
Momento Mori - Victorian England
Despite no longer being practised, this creepy ritual stemmed from the Victorian fascination with death. Photographs of the dead propped up in armchairs were fairly common, as were double-exposed photos featuring a ghostly image of the deceased person next to images of their loved ones. Gifts containing hair of the dead were also valued and often given as loving tokens. A bit on the gross side, no?
Skull Burial- Kiribati (South Pacific)
A few months after being buried, the family dig up the corpse and remove the skull from their loved one. They then go on to clean it by polishing it, oiling it, and otherwise preserving it to put on display in their home. In some cases, they offer the skull a cigarette or some food. They usually politely decline.