Funerals and end-of-life traditions are an essential part of saying goodbye to those who have passed, creating a final moment of memory and peace that draws us together in our love for those who have gone before us.
We in the United States tend to celebrate the passing of our loved ones with memorial services that involve different traditions based on our religions, family practices, and other cultural elements, ranging from somber to joyous.
But as you can imagine, there is a world full of ceremonies and practices that look almost nothing like our own, while still being filled with love and emotion.
Let’s take a look at a few special traditions from across the globe:
Hong Kong, which lies off the eastern coast of mainland China, is so small and densely-populated that there is virtually no room for burial—in fact, the cost of burial plots begins at $380,000. For this reason the government set up a system of underwater cremation sites, so that friends and relatives could celebrate their families at sea.
There are eleven sites at which mourners can scatter cremated remains, and the government provides a free ferry service that can hold up to 300 people for funeral attendance.
When we Americans picture coffins, we might think of them as solemn, rectangular pieces in a variety of neutral colors. In Ghana, a beautiful seaside country on Africa’s hump, this could not be farther from the case.
Family members and friends choose extremely elaborate and brightly-colored coffins that are constructed by local artisans. Many of them feature themes that represent their owners’ lives; for example, if the person being honored was an enthusiastic traveler in life, a Ghanaian coffin maker might build a coffin in the shape of an airplane! Then they are proudly displayed during a joyful celebration of that person’s time on Earth.
South Korea, while not being quite as small as Hong Kong, is also very densely-populated, meaning that burial plots and even urn niches are extremely expensive for the average family. South Koreans have come up with a both creative and beautiful solution: cremation beads.
Traditional glass blowing involves the use of wood ash, so family members and friends substitute their loved ones’ cremated remains in the glassblowing process. They are then turned into iridescent glass beads. These beads are either taken home and displayed in a dish or distributed to make bright, colorful jewelry. The beads serve as a daily token of remembrance and affection.
The United States typically considers black or other dark colors to be appropriate colors for mourning. There are many other countries and cultures, however, that would consider black to be a very strange sight at a funeral. In some cultures, white is generally accepted as the most appropriate color.
The Philippines are home to many different indigenous cultures with an even wider array of funerary customs and traditions. The Cebuano people make sure to dress their children in red for funerals, which is specifically to ensure that they won’t see any ghosts during the ceremony,
Which one of these traditions did you find the most surprising? Have you ever heard of any of these traditions before?
No matter how we commemorate the passing of those we love, the most important thing is that our traditions both honor and remember our family, friends, and the important people who have made our lives so special. We at Montgomery & Steward are here to help you and your family celebrate together in a touching and personal way.