Last Updated 16 May 2021

Funeral Customs

Category Culture, Death, Funeral
Essay type Research
Words 2683 (10 pages)
Views 670

Funeral custom world wide Death the act of dying; the end of life; the total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions of an organism. Death is a very painful and emotional time, yet one that may be filled with hope and mercy and is base off of the world's religious traditions and of philosophical enquiry. Belief in some kind of afterlife or rebirth has been a central aspect of most, if not all, religious traditions and as a result of that over time there has been different type of funeral customs developed in the world. The trace of funeral service is a history of mankind. Funeral customs are as old as evolution itself.

Funeral customs are rituals surrounding the death of a human being and the subsequent disposition of the corpse. Such rites may serve to mark the passage of a person from life into death, to secure the welfare of the dead, to comfort the living, and to protect the living from the dead. Disposal of the body may be by burial , by conservation or by cremation , by exposure or by other methods. Funeral ceremonies have certain common features: for example, the laying out of the corpse; the watching of the dead, of which the wake is a standard example; and the period of mourning with the accompanying ceremonies.  “Every culture and civilization attends to the proper care of their dead. Every culture and civilization ever studied has three things in common relating to death and the disposition of the dead. Some type of funeral rites, rituals, and ceremonies or a sacred place for the dead and memorialization of the dead Researchers have found burial grounds of Neanderthal man dating to 60,000 BC with animal antlers on the body and flower fragments next to the corpse indicating some type of ritual and gifts of remembrance”.

Funeral customs were diverse in many cultures. Some culture treated the male funerals different from the female funerals. The Cochieans buried their women, but suspended their men from trees. The Gonds buried their women but cremated their men. The Bongas buried their men with their faces to the North and their women with their faces to the South. Body burial or direct burial simply means placing a body in the ground after death, although it also applies to storing the whole body aboveground in a ausoleum, vault, or other type of crypt. They also found that in the medieval time the king would be buried without a heart. (Puckle 120) The Gonds are among the largest tribal groups in South Asia and perhaps the world. The term Gond refers to tribal peoples who live all over India's Deccan Peninsula. Most describe themselves as Gonds (hill people) or as Koi or Koitur. Funeral custom hasn’t really changed over time there are still similar or same customs still used today.

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They often had Memorials which allow friends, relatives and acquaintances to express their feelings and to share their memories. Many bereaved people find them helpful and are pleased to have provided a ceremony their loved ones would have wanted.  Native American burial customs have varied widely, not only geographically, but also through time, having been shaped by differing environments, social structure, and spiritual beliefs.

Prehistoric civilizations evolved methods of caring for the dead that reflected either the seasonal movements of nomadic societies or the life ways of settled communities organized around fixed locations. As they evolved, burial practices included various forms of encasement, sub-surface interment, cremation, and exposure. Custom usually dictated some type of purification ritual at the time of burial. Certain ceremonies called for secondary interments following incineration or exposure of the body, and in such cases, the rites might extend over some time period.

Where the distinctions in social status were marked, the rites were more elaborate. The Plains Indians and certain Indians of the Pacific Northwest commonly practiced above-ground burials using trees, scaffolds, canoes, and boxes on stilts, which decayed over time.  Many of our funeral customs have their historical basis in pagan rituals. Modern mourning clothing came from the custom of wearing special clothing as a disguise to hide identity from returning spirits.

Pagans believed that returning spirits would fail to recognize them in their new attire and would be confused and overlook them. Covering the face of the deceased with a sheet stems from pagan tribes who believed that the spirit of the deceased escaped through the mouth. They would often hold the mouth and nose of a sick person shut, hoping to retain the spirits and delay death. Feasting and gatherings associated with the funeral began as an essential part of the primitive funeral where food offerings were made. Wakes held today come from ancient customs of keeping watch over the deceased hoping that life would return.

The lighting of candles comes from the use of fire mentioned earlier in attempts to protect the living from the spirits. The practice of ringing bells comes from the common medieval belief that the spirits would be kept at bay by the ringing of a consecrated bell. The firing of a rifle volley over the deceased mirrors the tribal practice of throwing spears into the air to ward off spirits hovering over the deceased. Originally, holy water was sprinkled on the body to protect it from the demons. Floral offerings were originally intended to gain favor with the spirit of the deceased.

Funeral music had its origins in the ancient chants designed to placate the spirits. Funerals rank among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make. A traditional funeral, including a casket and vault, costs about $6,000, although "extras" like flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards or limousines can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Many funerals run well over $10,000. More and more people are choosing to be cremated, and there are even more choices for cremation urns than for caskets. The time after the death or passing away of a people in India are given a lot of importance. As per the Hindu Holy Scripture like the Bhagwat Git, it is believed that the soul of the person who has just passed away is on its way to the next level of existence at such a time. As such, it is with an intention to help the departed soul in a peaceful crossover to that next level of his /her existence, that Indians observe so many death rites and rituals. Basic idea behind the Indians' following all these funeral traditions is to show reverence to the deceased person.

Normally during this time, all the family members share each other’s sorrows and pray, so that the soul of the deceased person rests peacefully. At the end of one year, all elderly members of the deceased person gather once again for the Shraad ceremony. The 3rd, 5th, 7th or 9th day after the death of the person are also important, as all relatives gather to have a meal of the deceased's favorite foods. A small amount of the food is offered before his /her photo and later, it is ceremonially left at an abandoned place, along with a lit diya.

However, there may be slight variations in the way people of different religious sect observe this death rite.  Chinese funeral rites and burial customs are determined by the age of the deceased, cause of death, status and position in society, and marital status Preparation for a funeral often begins before a death has occurred. When a person is on his/her deathbed, a coffin will often have already been ordered by the family. A traditional Chinese coffin is rectangular with three 'humps', although it more common in modern times for a western style coffin to be used.

The coffin is provided by an undertaker who oversees all funeral rites. When a death occurs in a family all statues of deities in the house are covered up with red paper not to be exposed to the body or coffin and all mirrors are removed it is believed that one who sees the reflection of a coffin in a mirror will shortly have a death in his/her family. A white cloth is hung over the doorway to the house and a gong is placed to the left of the entrance if the deceased is a male, and to the right if female.

At the wake, the family members of the deceased gather around the coffin positioned according to their rank in the family and special clothing is worn: Children and daughters-in-law wear black signifying that they grieve the most; grandchildren, blue; and great grandchildren, light blue. Sons-in-law wear brighter colors, such as white, since they are considered outsiders. The children and daughters-in-law also wear a hood of sackcloth over their heads. The eldest son sits at the left shoulder of his parent and the deceased's spouse on the right. Relatives arriving later must crawl on their knees towards the coffin.

The funeral ceremony traditionally lasts over 49 days the first seven being the most important. Prayers are said every seven days for 49 days if the family can afford it. Otherwise, the period can be shortened by three to seven days. Usually, it is the responsibility of the daughters to bear the funeral expenses. The head of the family should be present for at least the first and possibly the second prayer ceremony. The number of ceremonies conducted depends on the financial situation of the family. The head of the family should also be present for the burial or cremation.

In the second tradition, the prayer ceremony is held every 10 days: The initial ceremony and three succeeding periods of 10 days until the final burial or cremation. The funeral and religious custom of burying the dead in Africa has some of the most complex customs. The ceremony is purely animist, and apparently without any set ritual. The main exception is that the females of the family of the deceased and their friends may undergo mournful lamentations. In some instances they work their feelings up to an ostentatious, frenzy-like degree of sorrow.

The revelry may be heightened by the use of alcohol, of which drummers, flute-players, bards, and singing men may partake. The funeral may last for as long as a week. Another funeral custom, a kind of memorial, frequently takes place seven years after the person's death. These funerals and especially the memorials may be extremely expensive for the family in question. Cattle, sheep, goats, and poultry, may be offered in remembrance and then consumed in festivities. Some funerals in Ghana are held with the deceased put in elaborate "fantasy coffins" colored and shaped after a certain object, such as a fish, crab, boat, and even an airplane.

Japanese funeral customs vary widely from region to region, so a generic description is not possible. The religion of the deceased person's family also has a bearing on the final arrangements, as do other factors such as the age at which the person died social status and the family's economic circumstances. The body is put on dry ice in a room at the mortuary or in front of the family altar (most Japanese are Buddhists) and the next of kin stay with it or close-by until it is time to put it in the casket.

By this time all of the close relatives will have changed into black suits and black kimono or black dresses. The Buddhist priest arrives at the scheduled time and is offered green tea. He speaks briefly with the family, during which time people who have not entered the room yet come in and sit on the floor (or on chairs if it is a funeral hall). After everyone has entered, the priest turns to the altar, bows, lights incense and begins to read a sutra.

During the sutra reading, the priest gives a signal and the members of the family, who are seated in hierarchical order, rise and go to the incense urn, bow, offer incense, bow again and return to their seats. After the family members have finished, the visitors repeat the ritual until everyone has finished. The priest finishes the sutra, after which everyone bows to the altar and the wake service ends. Depending on the Buddhist sect, everyone may chant the "mantra" of the Buddhist sect in unison at points during the service. The funeral is usually held on the day after the wake service.

The body is transferred to a temple (in the case where the wake was held at home) and placed before the altar that the mortuary has constructed in front of the temple altar. A wooden tablet inscribed with the posthumous name of the deceased is placed on the altar or in front of it. The posthumous name is assigned and inscribed by the priest.  A Jewish funeral service is conducted in a funeral home or the family home as soon as possible after death – typically within 24 hours. Funeral attire consists of dark-colored clothing, a dress or skirt and blouse for women, and a jacket and tie for men.

Men also wear a head covering known as a yarmulke, which will be provided by the funeral director for non-Jewish male guests. Guests should refrain from wearing symbols of other religions, such as a cross. Only family members attend the burial. Condolence visits by friends and extended family are welcomed during the seven-day mourning period known as shivah. Friends and neighbors may prepare the family's first meal following the funeral and may also bring gifts of food during shivah. If you bring food, make sure it is kosher, unless you know for certain that the family doesn't keep kosher.  Just as there is a way to live as a Jew, there is also a "way to die and be buried as a Jew," writes Blu Greenberg in her book, How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household (Fireside, 1983). This classic guide to Jewish living outlines traditional death rituals and practical issues, although many of these practices have been adapted somewhat by Reform Jews. The first thing to do after a death in the family, if you belong to a synagogue and the family member lives near you, is to contact your rabbi or another synagogue leader.

Usually, the synagogue will take over many of the arrangements. However, when your family member lives far away and is not a member of a congregation, or when you are not a member, funeral homes can often suggest rabbis who will conduct a funeral. Jewish burials take place as quickly as possible, following a principle of honoring the dead (k'vod hamet). Only if immediate relatives cannot arrive in time from abroad, or there is not enough time for burial before Shabbat or a holiday, are burials postponed for a day. Anything less is considered a "humiliation of the dead," Greenberg explains .When a Muslim is near death, those around him or her are called upon to give comfort, and reminders of God's mercy and forgiveness. They may recite verses from the Qur'an, give physical comfort, and encourage the dying one to recite words of remembrance and prayer. It is recommended, if at all possible, for a Muslim's last words to be the declaration of faith: "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah. " Upon death, those with the deceased are encouraged to remain calm, pray for the departed, and begin preparations for burial.

Muslims strive to bury the deceased as soon as possible after death, avoiding the need for embalming or otherwise disturbing the body of the deceased. An autopsy may be performed, if necessary, but should be done with the utmost respect for the dead.  The male in Muslim culture body get completely washes before they die. The different funeral customs has provided evidence that there are so many different way to perform a ceremonies burial rituals etc... Funeral customs has provided different tradition around the world to be spread through different culture and countries worldwide.

Work Cited

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  2. http://www. iloveindia. com/indian-traditions/funeral-traditions. html
  3. http://www. wyfda. org/basics_2. html
  4. http://www. caring. com/articles/body-burial-arrangements
  5. http://www. humanism. org. uk/ceremonies/humanist-funerals-memorials
  6. http://www. a-to-z-of-manners-and-etiquette. com/funeral-and-religious-customs. html
  7. http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1E1-funeralc. html
  8. http://www. tanutech. com/japan/jfunerals. html
  9. http://www. jewishfederations. org/page. aspx? id=937
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