Funeral and Religious Customs

Funeral and Religious Customs of Africa

The funeral and religious custom of burying the dead in the floor of dwelling-houses has been to some degree prevalent on the Gold Coast of Africa. 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.

Funeral and Religious Customs of the Baha'i

Regarding the Baha'i funeral service: it is extremely simple, as it consists only of a congregational prayer to be read before burial. This prayer will be made available to the friends when the "Aqdas" is translated and published.

In the mean time the National Spiritual Assembly should take great care lest any uniform procedure or ritual in this matter be adopted or imposed upon the friends.

The danger in this, as in some other cases regarding Baha'i worship, is that a definite system of rigid rituals and practices be developed among the believers.

The utmost simplicity and flexibility should be observed, and a selection from the Baha'i Sacred Writings would serve the purpose at the present time, provided this selection is not rigidly and uniformly adopted on all such occasions. (10 January 1936 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada).

Funeral and Religious Customs of the Balinese

Strange as it seems, it is in their cremation ceremonies that the Balinese have their greatest fun. A cremation is an occasion for gaiety and not for mourning, since it represents the accomplishment of their most sacred duty, the ceremonial burning of the corpses of the dead to liberate their souls so that they can thus attain the higher worlds and be free for reincarnation into better beings" ...Miguel Covarrubias.

Buddhist Traditions & Funeral Rites

The funeral and religious customs in the Buddhist tradition is that the funeral usually takes place within a week after death. Sending flowers or making a donation to a designated charity in the name of the deceased is appropriate. The casket is open and guests are expected to view it and bow slightly toward it.

It is the custom for friends to call at the home of the deceased family after the funeral, but not before.

Theravadins Buddhist follow the Indian funeral custom of burning the body at death. The Buddha's body was cremated and this set the example for many Buddhists, even in the West. When someone is dying in a Burmese home, monks come to comfort them. They chant verses to them, such as:

"Even the gorgeous royal chariots wear out; and indeed this body too wears out. But the teaching of goodness does not age; and so Goodness makes that known to the good ones."

After death, while the dead person is being prepared for the funeral fire, the monks continue to chant in order to help the dead one's good energies to be released from their fading personality.

The monks come with the family to the funeral. The family and all their friends give food and candles to the monks. Goodwill is created by these gifts and it is believed that the goodwill helps the lingering spirit of the dead person.

Funeral and Religious Customs of Eastern Orthodox Churches

Normal practice is to hold a funeral service in the Church three days after death.

Calling hours at a funeral home for one to two days depending upon the circumstances are arranged to allow friends and relatives to pay respect to the departed and to console the family. Each day before burial the priest conducts the Trisagion Prayers of mercy at the wake.

After the funeral and final Trisagion at the cemetery, a Meal of Mercy is prepared and offered at the Church or at a nearby restaurant for the family and friends. During this period flowers may be sent to the funeral home, and/or donations made to the Church, and/or donations made in the deceased person's name to a designated charity.

It has become customary that black or somber clothes are worn to the wake and funeral.

In the Orthodox tradition, however, the color to be worn by the priest is white during the funeral service.

Out-of-town friends and relatives who are not able to attend the funeral may send flowers and/or messages of condolences to the funeral home or to the family home.

Hindu Funeral and Religious Customs

Funerals are usually held within 24 hours of the death. Friends may call on the family at home where the body of the deceased is usually kept until the traditional cremation. If the family receives flowers from visitors, they are placed at the feet of the deceased. After the funeral, friends may visit, and the custom is to bring gifts of fruit.

Funeral and Religious Customs of the Mormons

Except where it is not allowed, Mormons prefer to bury their dead rather than cremate them.

Embalming is accepted and allowed and if the dead person has received their temple endowment they will be buried in temple clothes.

Funerals usually take place in an LDS chapel or mortuary under the direction of the bishop of the ward.

Family members usually give the family prayer and dedicate the grave, but are not expected to give a talk.

Because Mormons know that families will be reunited after death, the natural grief at funerals is tempered with certainty and hope of what is to come.

One writer has said that a Mormon funeral is not a final goodbye, but more like the farewell said to someone who is going away for a long time, but who we know we will eventually meet again.

Funeral and Religious Customs of Judaism

It is customary for friends and neighbors to prepare for the mourner the first meal after the funeral, and to encourage the bereaved to partake of the food. Do not bring non-kosher food to a kosher home.

It is important to remember in the funeral and religious customs of Judaism that one never sends flowers to a Jewish funeral.

Condolence calls should be made no later than the Shivah (seven days) period of mourning. The seven days are counted from the day of the funeral. An hour of the seventh day is counted as a full day. Visits should be made, therefore, within the six days after the funeral. Many Jews, however, observe Shivah-mourning period for these days only.

It has become a growing custom in the funeral religious customs of Judaism for close friends to send flowers to the family of the deceased sometime during the weeks following the funeral (except to Orthodox Jews).

Funerals are not encouraged in Orthodox synagogues. Therefore, Orthodox Jewish funerals are usually held in mortuary chapels or at home, with the men and women assembling side by side, men with covered heads.

Among Orthodox and Conservative Jews it is customary for the immediate family and friends to return to the home of the mourners immediately following the interment of the deceased.

Friends in the community come to the home of the mourners at evening time for seven days thereafter, for the purpose of participating in a worship service. It's called "Shivah," when the mourners do not leave their homes for any business or social contacts for seven days following the death of a loved one.

Reform Jews return to the home of the mourners immediately following burial for a brief worship service. This religious service in the home is optional, and is conducted by the Rabbi or a layman at the suggestion of some member of the family. Reform Jews refrain from business and social contacts for a customary period of at least three days following the demise of a loved one.

Funeral and Religious Customs of Muslims

Death is the end of the present life, but a Muslim believes in the life hereafter. Death is considered to be Allah's will. For Muslims, death is not the final end, but a temporary separation of soul from the body which will be brought back to life on the Day of Judgment. When a Muslim learns the news of a person's death, he says:

"Inna Lillahae wa Inna Elaihae Rajae'uon." (Verily, unto Allah do we belong and verily, unto Him shall we return--Quran 2:156).

Relatives and friends gather at the home of the deceased person, give comfort to the immediate family members, recite the Qur'an and pray for Allah's forgiveness and mercy for the dead.

It is the funeral and religious custom of Muslims to bury the body as soon as possible; cremation and routine autopsies are forbidden. The burial is the top priority after a person dies and must take place as soon as arrangements can be made.

No formalities or waiting for anybody should delay the burial. Therefore, friends and relatives expedite the process and complete the burial. For burial, the body is washed (a man by men and a woman by women).

Burial should take place in the most sober and dignified manner and the resources should be saved for the survivors rather than wasting them on an exorbitant burial.

The face showing is not in the culture of lslam, though close relatives may do so.

In the event of a male death, his widow must observe a waiting period of about four lunar months. She may get married after that period. This is necessary in order to determine her probable pregnancy with the deceased husband, and therefore the distribution of his bequest to his children.

The friends and relatives are obliged to keep the grieved family relieved of the burden of preparing meals for three days.

As part of the funeral and religious customs of Muslims, the recitation of the holy Qur'an is recommended by the bedside of a person about to die to facilitate the remembrance of Allah. The funeral prayer (service) is an obligation of Muslims. It should be observed by at least some, but not necessarily all.

Visiting the mourners during the first three days after the death is highly recommended.

Given lslam's emphasis on moderation and simplicity, gifts of flowers and candy are not suitable. Non-Muslim friends can show their sympathy and love in so many other ways, such as by being present at the funeral services or by paying a visit to the mourning family. Non-Muslim friends may express their sympathy to the bereaved family by saying that Allah show His Mercy to the deceased and forgive him/her.

Funeral and Religious Customs of Protestants

Ministry to the bereaved is very important. However, there is no uniformity concerning "calling hours," whether the burial service (funeral) will be from the church or the local funeral home, or whether or not flowers are appropriate.

It is an important part of the funeral and religious custom to express one's condolences to the bereaved and respect for the deceased by writing a note, attending the "calling hours" if they are held, attending the burial service unless it is private, and by offering a tangible expression of caring (food, flowers, a contribution to the person's church or charity) unless requested not to do so.

Funeral and Religious Customs of the Roman Catholic Church

If calling hours (wake) are held, it is appropriate to visit and offer condolences. Flowers may be sent to the funeral home or home of the bereaved. It's also appropriate to send flowers to the home unless the family requests no flowers.

Funeral and Religious Customs of Scientology

Scientology has a number of different funeral ceremonies which might be said over the remains of the deceased or, indeed, might be given more as a sermon, or memorial, at a service with or without physical remains present.

There is no funeral and religious custom as to when, or in what manner, physical remains are disposed of, as they attach fairly little meaning to the physical form.

Scientology views the spiritual self, what they refer to as the "thetan" (From the Greek letter Theta), as being the individual, and views the body as a vehicle - the means whereby they interact with each other and the physical universe.

The Scientology funeral service tends to be focused on thanking the departed for spending time with us, praising or acknowledging life attributes or achievements, bidding them farewell, and wishing them well in their future existence.

The remains of the deceased may be cremated or interred, according to their wishes or those of their family.

Funeral and Religious Customs of Unitarian Universalists

Preparations for death and burial are organized by the individual. Planning for the eventuality of death is a great help to surviving loved ones. Anxiety is vastly increased at the time of death by the added responsibilities of making major decisions about practical arrangements. If the planning is done prior to need, more time and energy will then be available for the human concerns of experiencing the death of a loved one and ministering to the bereaved.

As part of the funeral and religious custom and pre-planning, the individual needs to put their wishes in writing, talk to their loved ones, and put their instructions where they are easy to find.

As part of the planning, the individual may wish to decide whether they prefer cremation or burial. If they choose body burial, they should consider requesting a 'green burial' with no embalming chemicals and a simple casket that will allow their remains to return to the earth.

They also need to think about donating their organs or body and make the necessary arrangements.

We have selected only a few of the many different religions and customs to list in our our A - Z Guide. If you would like to add your belief or customs regarding funerals kindly submit your work to our Interactive Forum - Funeral and Religious Customs

You may also be interested in...

Funeral Service Etiquette

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Funerals & Children

Funeral Etiquette

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