5 Different Death and Funeral Traditions across the World

Death and funeral traditions in the UK and many other countries normally involve eulogies, cremation jewellery and funeral urns. But did you know about all the other weird and wonderful death traditions from other cultures around the world? Here are five of our favourites.

Jazz Funerals in New Orleans

Traditional Jazz Funerals in New Orleans, Louisiana are an upbeat and joyful celebration of life. Jazz funerals have traditionally been reserved for well known members of society and musicians, but today they are also held for young people who die in accidents or under other tragic circumstances.

Jazz funerals begin as a slow march from the home of the deceased onto the church. After the burial is over and the church is out of sight, strangers on the street are welcome to join the march as the band goes from playing hymns to much wilder, upbeat music which is believed to help the deceased find their way to heaven.

Day of the Dead in Mexico

Day of the Dead, or ‘Día de Muertos’ in Spanish, is a Mexican holiday which originated in central and southern Mexico. Contrary to popular belief, ‘Día de Muertos’ is not simply Mexican Halloween, it is in fact a two day festival where families remember and make offerings to their loved ones who have passed away.

Unlike Halloween, Day of the Dead is not a spooky holiday, although the white faces and skulls lead many non-Mexicans to think it is. The holiday is celebrated annually on the 31st of October and those who are celebrating, believe that the souls of deceased friends and family members will come to visit them over the next two days.

Families set up beautifully colourful, elaborate shrines or ‘ofrendas’ in their homes, which they decorate with photographs, candles, food and flowers, as a sign of respect for their loved ones.

In recent years, the day of the dead has become popular all over the world, bringing communities together to celebrate life after death in a joyful and beautiful way.

Burial Beads in South Korea

Cremation is becoming more and more popular in South Korea and where some people choose to keep their loved one’s ashes in an urn or a piece of jewellery, others take their relatives’ ashes and have them transformed into beautiful shiny beads which they keep inside glass containers or dishes at home.

Sky Burials in Mongolia and Tibet

Not for the faint hearted, Sky or Celestial burials are common practice in the Chinese provinces and autonomous regions of Tibet and Mongolia. A sky burial is not actually a burial at all, as the corpses are not buried, but chopped up and left on mountainsides where they are devoured by vultures and other birds instead.

This may seem gruesome, but Sky Burials are eco-friendly and adhere to the Buddhist ethos of generosity and compassion to all living things – vultures included. In Buddhist teaching, the body is merely a vessel for the soul, which the birds carry to await reincarnation.

Swedish Death cleaning or ‘Döstädning’

The Swedish concept of death cleaning is aimed primarily at people over the age of fifty. This is due to the fact that by this age, people tend to have accumulated a lot of things, many of which they don’t really need. The idea of death cleaning, is to slowly begin clearing out some of these items, or re-purposing them. Some people decide to give some of their possessions to charity, or pass them on to friends. The main reason behind ‘Döstädning’, is that when you do pass away, your family won’t be left with the large burden of having to clear everything out themselves.

It may seem a little early to start thinking about death at the age of fifty, but death cleaning is actually a process which is supposed to take years to complete.

Death cleaning isn’t just about getting rid of clutter however. ‘Döstädning’ can actually help people to look past their material items, and to see what it is that matters most, which gives many people a whole new lease of life.