Memorial Service Traditions From Around The World

By: Anderson Funeral Home
Sunday, October 2, 2016

Memorial Service Traditions From Around The World

Learning more about memorial service traditions from around the world can help us to understand how others view death. Although the practices may not be something that you would want in the service you are planning, the understanding of their service traditions may give you some direction.

Left to the Animals – several cultures around the globe leave the body in an area away from the population but open to the animals. It sounds harsh to our culture, but they believe that it gives back to nature. Many of the cultures that practice this tradition live in regions where burial and cremation are not possible, so this custom formed from necessity.

Fire Burial – in some cultures, like the Hindu Isle of Bali, people believe that fire carries the spirit to the next life. The bodies are placed on a float that is paraded through the community and then lit on fire in the center of town.

Out to Sea – the paddle-out ceremony of Hawaii is believed to be a modern tradition started by the surfing community that became popular in the last 100 years. Friends and family will take the cremated remains of the loved one and paddle out to sea. The participants hold hands in a circle and then prayers are shared or stories are shared before the ashes are scattered in the middle of the circle.

Silence – In some African cultures, the family members will stand on one side of the gravesite and everyone else will stand on the other side. The family does not speak during the burial.

A Time of Mourning – many cultures and religions have specific time lines for mourning. In Islam, traditions hold that the family and friends mourn for three days while widows mourn for four lunar months and 10 days. In Hinduism, the mourning period is limited to thirteen days when the body is then cremated. Traditional Jewish funerals are followed by a seven day mourning period for family members.

Jazz it Up – in New Orleans, the funeral procession has fused together the many cultures that make up the community. The mourners are led by a marching band that begins by playing slow, sorrowful tunes and then shifts into an upbeat celebration.

Ash Scattering – the tradition of cremation runs throughout cultures and religions. Many cultures, including the Sikh, gather the ashes to be scattered. The Sikh does not mark the location of the ashes or erect monuments (or headstones) for those that have died because they believe the body is just the shell.

The way that people choose to mourn and memorialize their dead is more diverse than nearly any other common practice. Many of the traditions have come from necessity, including lack of burial space. Some of the traditions have come from more modern practices (like the paddle-out ceremony of Hawaii). All of the memorial service traditions from around the world serve as a way to remember and honor the dead while providing healing and hope to those left behind.

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