Funerals are different all around the world and differ between many different religions and traditions. Each religion carries its own mourning traditions as well. As a part of our “Around the World Series” we’re highlighting what some of these traditions are and how various communities of people mourn. We hope this allows us all to move towards self-care, and see why funerals are important at a vulnerable time.
Traditions Around Mourning
While there are many different sects of Christianity, traditions remain similar between them all. Ecclesiastes 3 in the Bible focuses on how there is a season for everything on earth including a time to mourn. Funerals are sometimes called home-going services because Christians believe they are being reunited with their original and eternal birthplace of Heaven. Some religions such as Catholics and Greek Orthodox have open casket funerals, but non-denominational Christians welcome cremations as well. Most wear black to the service as a sign of mourning to reflect the mourning of the dead.
After the funeral, Jews observe Shiva. Shiva lasts for 7 days. During Shiva, the family mourns at home and friends stop by to offer condolences. The family only focuses on mourning. To symbolize this, mirrors are covered up, family members wear a torn black ribbon, and men are not allowed to shave. These traditions make people focus on the deceased and forget about their comfort and appearance. A memorial candle is lit in the family’s home and stays burning for the 7 days. Every year on the anniversary of the death, known as the yartzheit, the family lights another memorial candle for 24 hours. Lastly, typically flowers are not sent as condolences. Instead, the family will designate a charity that might have had importance to the deceased for which people can donate to.
Islam also requires a specific period of mourning. Family and friends of the deceased mourn for three days except for the widow. The widow must mourn for exactly four months and 10 days. Mourners must avoid wearing decorative jewelry or clothing and widows must follow this for their four months and 10 days period. Widows cannot remarry or move on during the mourning period either. When people are mourning, it is acceptable to show their grief by crying. Wailing, shrieking or tearing at hair and clothes is not allowed.
In Hinduism, Hindus do not see death as the end of life, so it is not mourned as such. They believe that the soul, or Atman, continually cycles through different bodies. Thus, death is thought of as the journey of the atman changing and not an end to life. The mourning period is limited to 13 days and it is thought that if someone mourns too much, then it will be harmful to the soul of the deceased. Besides the idea of the Atman, Hindus bathe twice daily, wear white, and eat only one vegetarian meal each day. On the 13th day, they perform a Sharadh ceremony. This ceremony involves a fire sacrifice, and both the gods and the deceased’s ancestors receive offerings to ensure a peaceful afterlife. Once this day ends, the mourning period is complete and everyone must return to his or her day-to-day life.
Just like Hindus, Buddhists believe in reincarnation. They believe that someone enters a new incarnation immediately after death, and they are born again nine months later. Buddhist traditions also involve a funeral with three components: sharing, conducting yourself well, and meditating. Throughout Buddhist countries, the funerals differ slightly, but they usually include an open casket. This is because when someone looks at the body, it serves as a reminder of the impermanence of life.
While the traditions may differ, the main theme in all communities remains the time and space that the grieving families get to settle and deal with a loss.
Everdays helps you connect with family and friends at a time of loss. It’s a simple communications platform to share details on events, send personal condolences and connect with those who matter.