Funerals take place throughout history and across different countries and cultures. Many of these funeral traditions, as well as religion and culture, have affected the way in which we celebrate or mourn death today. This blog post focuses on some interesting, unique traditions of past and present.
Roman funerals were opportunities to express the wealth and stature of the family of the deceased: a display of power for those whose families were particularly influential. Processions through city streets and public eulogies were opportunities for the family to publicly announce and celebrate the life and achievements of the deceased, their political acts and their ancestors. In the effort of maintaining a high public profile, the elite would celebrate the deceased by organising public feasts, entertainment and games. Even the funerals of those whose families were not particularly wealthy or powerful were considered to be costly in relation to their income.
Renowned for their unique funeral rituals are the Torajans, situated in the highlands of South Sulawesi in Indonesia. Their belief is that death is not a sudden event but is a progressive journey. Even after death, the body will remain with the family and during this period they will continue to communicate with and care for their loved one. Funerals can take place weeks or months after the death, which allows enough time to gather family members and loved ones and to raise sufficient funds to cover the cost. It is only after the funeral takes place that the person’s soul is thought to move on to the afterlife. The body is placed in a cave or stone grave and every few years it is exhumed, cleaned and re-dressed in a ritual called ma’nene, held in August.
Buddhist Funeral Traditions
Buddhists believe that once a person has passed away their body is an empty vessel and that the soul transmigrates, meaning that it is passed from one body to another. In one funeral ritual known as a sky burial, the body is placed in an exposed location, where animals such as birds can consume it. This is thought to free the soul and allow it to depart, whilst being considered an act of regeneration, allowing the living to prosper from the physical body when it is no longer needed.
Modern Day Funerals
Today in the UK whilst many funeral traditions are still commonplace such as dressing in black or throwing soil on to the lowered coffin, alternative ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular. Green burials, celebration of life ceremonies and live-streamed funerals are just some of the new and emerging trends that we are beginning to see.
Due to the increase in funeral prices in the last decade, the way in which people are choosing to cover the cost of their funeral is changing too. Many people are seeing the benefits of taking out a funeral plan to give them the peace of mind that when the time comes, their family will not be left with the emotional and financial burden.
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