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Funerals Around The World

A Guide to Memorial Rituals in Countries Across The Globe

Everyone has been to funerals in America, and they generally have an unsurprising consistency. But for many reasons, ranging from the sociological to the anthropological, it can be interesting and instructive to examine what funerals are like in other parts of the world. Here is a guided tour of the various memorial traditions commonly practiced in funerals around the world.

Flowers are a common part of funerals in many different societiesMexico, with its large Catholic population may have one of the most “wooded” of any funerals around the world. As the casket passes by two story wooden statues of Saints at the church or funeral home, the casket is usually exposed with plexi-glass, so that the body of the deceased is exposed for viewing. It is also one of the most flowery of any funerals around the world, as flowers are often everywhere, and favorites are palm fronds and white mums. (Though not in any particular arrangement) Teas and refreshments are available at this time as well, which is in contrast to many other funerals around the world, which will often wait until the luncheon afterwards. By the end of the service, most of the guests will leave, but the family will stay the entire night to pray for the dead and to mourn. Also unlike other funerals around the world, instead of burying the body immediately, burial typically occurs the next day, so that the family can spend some last intimate moments with the departed.

A French funeral has some similarities with Mexican funerals, but has similarities with other funerals around the world as well. First, unlike many other funerals around the world, there are strict legal obligations involved with death. For example, you have a legal obligation to declare the death within 24 hours, and to bury the body within 6 days. Like some other funerals around the world however, especially in the West, the service, which is usually Catholic, remains fairly traditional, with hymns, a eulogy, a scripture reading, and an immediate burial thereafter, often in the churchyard. This is a practice that has been done for at least 1000 years. Cremation however is becoming an increasingly popular alternative. As with other non-traditional funerals around the world, in France, this often means spreading your loved one’s ashes across a riverside, a rolling hill, seashore, or even out of an airplane. Not only that, you can make arrangements to bury your loved one in your own backyard, a practice that is similarly growing in popularity. As is often the case with funerals around the world, funeral directors in France not only sell caskets, but also offer advice on dealing with death, and with the particulars of the funeral service.

Funerals have always helped the living cope with a loss and also help gain closureA South African funeral has more in common with funerals in America and Britain than with other funerals around the world. With its large Anglican population, funeral services would be immediately recognizable to any Westerner, with hymns, eulogies, a sermon, and Scripture readings. Not only that, funeral home directors can also help the bereaved to make these decisions as they consider what the funeral service will look like. Like French funeral directors, their counterparts in South Africa may be better informed on these specifics than others who work in the industry of funerals around the world. If the service is held at a funeral home, it is often a requirement that a picture of the deceased be placed on the cover of the hymn leaflet. As with other funerals around the world, flowers are a common appendage to funerals in South Africa, however as opposed to other places, they are usually fake, particularly silk. Also, like other funerals around the world, South Africans often feature their cultural cuisine at funerals, such as dried fruit and nuts, which are usually front and center at the luncheon. As with many other funerals around the world, it is likewise common to give a gift to the bereaved. Popular gifts often include hot chocolate, a bag of coffee; you guessed it, dried fruits and nuts, and champagne.

A Russian Orthodox funeral is one of the most ritualistic of any funerals around the world. Usually consisting of three services, the vigil, the triaging, and the Divine Liturgy, it may also perhaps be the most lengthy of any funerals around the world. Beginning with the vigil, the night before, prayers are typically made for the departed that he or she “might enter into that place where there is no suffering or pain,” The next day, the trisagion, the main part of the service takes place, as the body is presented before the congregation, and they each have the chance to approach the body and give their parting farewells. This is usually followed by the Divine Liturgy which is read by the priest at the cemetery as the casket is buried. This, for some however is not the end. In fact, some memorial services may continue on the 3rd, 9th, and even 40th day after the vigil.

One of the many pieces of memorial art that is utilized in many of these various services is the placement of a ceramic cemetery portrait on the final remembrance of the lost person. Regardless of location or even religion, placing the likeness of the lost person on their final tribute is greatly comforting to grieving individuals. This, of course, is just one of the many ever-evolving traditions that are shaping our own age.

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