4 Funeral Rites Around the World

When you die, do you want to be buried? Cremated? Or something entirely different? These are four unique funeral rites around the world.

Guidelines for celebrating the dead

Here are 4 unique funeral rites from around the world.

Exhumation - For some communities in northern Vietnam, this rite allows the soul of the deceased to enter the afterlife. Bones are the shelter for the deceased’s soul and spirit, so they must be reburied in a suitable tomb. The ceremony takes place 3 or 4 years after the deceased’s burial, typically taking place before Tết (the lunar New Year).

Turning of the bones - During the southern winter, from July-October, some Malagasy communities also carry out an exhumation. This sacred ritual called famadihana is one of the most common in Madagascar. During the ritual, the deceased travels from the land of the dead to the land of the ancestors. The body is exhumed and wrapped in a new shroud. This is a way for the living to have a connection to the dead. It’s a kind of homage to the memory of the deceased. Even though the dead are no longer beside them, the living still believe that they are cold, and need to be covered, and they remain by their side until night falls. The body then follows a procession that ends in a large celebration.

Burial - It is prescribed by the 3 major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Burials are seen as a way to protect the body and the dignity of the deceased. In many cultures, burials are linked to the belief in life after death. It is even considered a requirement to enter Heaven. 100,000 years ago, human beings were already burying their dead. This practice spread as communities settled in one place.

Cremation - In the Hindu religion, cremation is meant to liberate the soul of the deceased, freeing it for reincarnation. The deceased is placed on a stretcher over a large pyre. The ashes are then thrown in the Ganges, or in another body of water. Being very expensive, cremation on the banks of the Ganges is reserved for certain castes in Indian society.