Funerals, at least in the United States, in Europe, and in most
societies influenced by traditional western philosophies of Christianity or Judaism have a certain commonality. Mourners dress in black and sit through a somber ceremony accented with prayer in a church, chapel, or synagogue. This often is followed by people sharing memories, a single file procession to the cemetery, a few graveside prayers, and then the burial. A gathering of friends and family follows, often to share a meal and memories.
Other cultures, however, have different and often fascinating ways of honoring or remembering the deceased, and providing solace to families. In the Tana Toraja region of eastern Indonesia, funerals are not a simple one day affair. A person is not considered deceased until the extended family can find the resources to host a funeral worthy of their status in the society, sometimes more than a year after death. Until that time the dead relative is referred to as being sick or asleep. They are laid out in special rooms within the home where they are symbolically cared for and even fed. Until the actual funeral they are still considered at part of the family.
Chinese society is rooted in a very ancient culture. Traditionally funeral rites are a status based system. As the elderly are revered, an older person is not to show respect to a younger member of society, which means that they seldom take part in the funeral of young person. Once the date for the funeral is selected, the body of the deceased is washed with reverence and dressed. Red is never used for the burial clothes to ensure the dead does not become a lost and restless spirit. At a wake type ceremony flowers and white envelopes with paper currency are brought by mourners. Taoist or Buddhist scripture are chanted by monks, and the casket is taken to the graveside while being accompanied by musicians to kept evil spirits at bay. Family members offer prayers for the dead, and burn incense in their homes, and at least once a year they visit the grave site (Qing Ming) for a tomb sweeping festival.
Traditional Hindu funeral ceremonies are known as antyesti. Before wrapping the body in a white linen shroud, or red if the wife precedes the husband in death, it is ritually washed and burnt ash or sandalwood is applied to the forehead of a man, turmeric for a woman.. The hands are placed in a palm to palm prayer position, and the big toes are tied together. Offerings of rice balls are placed by the casket, and there is viewing before cremation. The traditional 13 day mourning period is broken with a ritual that pays homage to ancestors, sraddha. This ceremony is also performed on the anniversary of death.
Tradition is an important part of the grieving process regardless of culture. In the Bullhead City area, the compassionate and professional staff at Arizona Affordable Funeral Home and Crematory are always available to assist during your time of grieving.
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