How Funerals Are Performed in Different Cultures

How Funerals Are Performed in Different Cultures

Different countries and cultures celebrate and commemorate different things in different ways. You may already know this when it comes to such things as holidays, religious events and celebrations that are hosted throughout the year. You can actually add funerals to that extensive list as well. Even though it may seem that all funerals and memorial services are conducted the same around the world, the exact opposite is the case. The way that death is viewed in general and funerals are conducted by one country and through one religion drastically vary from the way that another country or religion conducts the same event.


Roman Catholicism
Once a member of the Roman Catholic Church has died, sending sombre messages in cards or floral arrangements is acceptable under the circumstances. However, before the funeral takes place, Roman Catholics are commonly known for hosting Vigils for the deceased (also known as Wakes). In most cases, there are flowers and decorative or aromatic candles that are used throughout the venue of the wake in addition to the actual funeral service and burial area. Friends and family members of Roman Catholics that are grieving the loss of a deceased loved one are encouraged to briefly visit the immediate family and spend several moments together engaged in private prayers. During the actual funeral service, Funeral Mass (also referred to as “Requiem”) is usually performed directly in the church and is conducted by a priest. In order to celebrate the deceased, there is a candle that will be lit in order to bring comfort to all of his or her mourners. Once the burial has been completed, family and close friends are invited to gather together at the home of close relatives in order to enjoy a delicious meal of covered dishes and beverages usually brought to the event by other family members and friends.

When a member of the Protestant church dies, there are quite a few expressions of sympathy that are viewed as acceptable. For example, loved ones and friends are able to send cards, attend the scheduled visitations and corresponding funeral services, donate money to designated charitable organizations as well as deliver food directly to the home of the deceased person's family. During the actual Protestant ceremony, the afterlife is emphasized prominently throughout the service and the life of the deceased person is celebrated through remembrances as well as testimonials from friends, co-workers and relatives. The service is usually conducted by an ordained minister along with the planned and prepared participation of family members and friends. Respectable dress is required for all funeral attendees, but most would prefer to wear traditional black dress attire.

The funeral service for Hindus is normally conducted by a collaborative effort between a designated Hindu priest and members of the family. The funeral ceremony has to be followed directly by cremation (not burial) within 24 hours after the deceased has passed away. Casually dressing in white clothing for mourners is acceptable. Bringing gifts of any kind to the funeral is not allowed; this includes floral arrangements and any other type of present. Guests are not allowed to say anything to the people mourning during the service – even a simple greeting is prohibited. Instead of using words and verbal expressions, visitors and funeral attendees are allowed to offer sympathetic hugs and head nods in moderation as an alternative. Within the open casket, floral arrangements (such as flower garlands and a variety of seasonal sprays) are allowed. Guests are required to view the body of the deceased person inside of the casket. Two and a half weeks (or ten days) after the person has died, the funeral ceremony is then held within the deceased person's home. This is done in order to successfully liberate the person's soul in order for it to ascend directly into heaven. All visitors are required to bring fruit as a gift to the bereaving family members.


At all Buddhist funerals, the presence of white flowers is unavoidable and clearly obvious. This is primarily because of the fact that white flowers are the traditional, symbolic flower of bereavement for Buddhists. While sending white flowers directly to the family members and friends of the deceased is viewed as an acceptable gift, red flowers and food is very poor etiquette and should never be sent at all. If you are interested in making any type of donations either directly to the family of the deceased or a specific charitable organization, this is also viewed as an appropriate option. During the viewing of the body, incense and candles are burning until the body is finally moved to its final destination – the crematorium or the cemetery. All visitors are encouraged to greet the immediate family first to offer their kind words and condolences before heading towards the casket to respectfully bow before the body. Making a monetary donation to the family during the actual viewing is a common practice although it is not required. The actual service, though, is conducted directly at the funeral home that is caring for the body by a Buddhist monk. Buddhists believe that, when a person dies, they are transitioned from one life directly to the next, which is when Karmic forces gathered throughout their life on Earth will determine what happens during their rebirth. As mentioned earlier, all guests are required to bow towards the body of the deceased as a sign of respect and appreciation for all of the lessons that death in general teaches them about the concept of impermanence. While friends and other visitors are normally found wearing black clothing, the immediate family wears white. Even though contacting the family of the deceased is allowed, no contact should be made after the funeral service is completed in order to allow the family plenty of time to grieve privately amongst themselves without any interruptions.

Unlike many other religions, floral arrangements of any size or type are never appropriate for Jewish funerals and memorial services. The actual funeral service is overseen by a rabbi. It is Jewish tradition for the burial of the deceased one's body to occur rather quickly in comparison to other religions (within 24 hours of the death). This is required based on the standards outlined within the Torah. Dark-coloured clothing is mandatory attire for these events. Men are required to wear yarmulkes (head coverings) regardless of their respective religious preferences as a sign of respect for the deceased. A Jewish blessing is traditionally recited after the person has expired. Based on their religious beliefs, there are usually three key stages of preparation – Rechitzah (washing the deceased one's body), Taharah (ritual purification) and the Halbashah (official dressing of the body.) After the body has been buried, the immediate family of the deceased will remain in a state of mourning (also referred to as “Shiva”) within their homes for one week (seven days). Visitations from friends, relatives and co-workers are welcome, which is what is referred to as an official Shiva call. Throughout this extended period of mourning, fruit, Kosher food baskets and other acceptable desserts are brought directly to the family or even sent to their house. Keep in mind, though, that flowers are never appropriate – before, during or after the funeral service.

The Nation of Islam
The viewpoint of using flowers for Muslim funerals varies slightly depending on certain circumstances. Some people might say that the traditional emphasis and focus on maintaining simple lives makes offering floral gifts of any kind unacceptable while others feel that, under these extenuating circumstances, this type of gift is suitable. Palm branches are the common choice that is used at Muslim funerals when it comes to placing certain things directly on the grave of the deceased. The bodies of the deceased are cleaned thoroughly before being completely enshrouded in thin clothing. When it comes to delivering the body directly to the grave-site, Islam tradition requires only male Muslims to do so.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Even though floral arrangements and tributes are appropriate at a funeral for a Mormon (or member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). However, what you should never do is give anything that is shaped like a cross. The prohibition of crosses is due to the fact that Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was physically resurrected. The bishop of the church is the person that conducts these funeral ceremonies within the congregation of the deceased one. Unlike the Jews, burial does not necessarily need to happen within the first 24 hours when dealing with deceased bodies. The typical time-line of a Mormon funeral and burial is within one week and can occur within the actual funeral home, church or directly at the graveside of the deceased. In most cases, Mormon funerals are not conducted in the temple of worship. In regards to visitations, offering condolences through house calls in modest attire is acceptable. Another difference between Mormons and Jews when it comes to funerals is that there is no type of head covering that is ever required of men or women. The burial is open for guests and occurs after the actual service has been completed.

Funeral Services for Asians
If you are looking to do something special for an Asian family that recently lost a loved one to death, sending either yellow or white mums is greatly appreciated. Throughout different countries in Asia (including China, Korea and Japan), white chrysanthemums are widely known as symbolic representations of both grief and lamentation. When it comes to Chinese cultures, the family actually wears white clothing during the funeral service. However, jewellery items cannot be worn at all – neither can red clothing. This is simply because of the fact that the colour red is a symbolic representation of happiness, an emotion that is definitely not present during a funeral ceremony.

Funeral Service for Hispanics
Since Roman Catholicism is the primary religion followed by most Hispanics around the world, the common practices and traditions associated with this religion are usually followed as well. In most cases, the standard Sunday mass and funeral rituals are directly taken from Roman Catholic Church traditions.

All Wakes are festive in nature – overnight visitations, a big family feast filled with delicious dishes and desserts as well as mariachis. Condolence floral baskets, bouquets and other arrangements are also recommended for this event as well. However, grand gestures with expensive presents is not necessary. A standard bouquet revolving around a simple floral arrangement or even a cross-shaped tribute or customized candle will suffice. Even if you can't afford to give a present, lighting one of the candles in the church is a great idea and will go a long way in reaching the hearts and minds of the family as well. Any personal items or presents for the deceased person can be placed within the casket along with them. This is done primarily because of the religious belief that the deceased person will take these things with them as they travel towards the after-world. Once the ceremony has come to an end, a standard burial takes place followed by a reception (or repass) consisting food, drinks and nostalgic reminisce sessions for families and friends. It is a common belief that Central Americans and Mexicans believe that their dead loved ones return to walk and live among them as their spirits continue to live long after their bodies have died. They even pray directly to their deceased loved ones and turn to them periodically for support, encouragement and guidance.

Where to Go for Guidance
If you have any questions or concerns that you would like to have addressed in order to make sure that you are respectful and do not violate any restrictions or boundaries, the best thing to do is ask for guidance. In most cases, the designated funeral home director will provide the guidance and assistance necessary to make sure that you behave properly. Whether you have a lot of knowledge and insight into cultural backgrounds and religious differences or not, trusting in their expert guidance and support will allow you to do things properly.

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