Thanks to movies and popular culture, it's easy to think that, around the world, people's traditions are somewhat similar to our own. That's rarely the case though. You might find it hard to believe, but these funeral customs are practised in certain parts of the world to this day. Here are seven you've probably never heard of.
In one part of Indonesia, a community called the Torajans do not bury the bodies of their dead for weeks, months, or even years. When a person passes away, the body is kept with the family where they dress it, serve it regular meals, and even pray with it. Once a person is buried, the family may exhume the body years later where they will change the clothes, and again pay respect to their ancestor.
Every five or so years, the Malagasy people will perform a ritual known as the turning of the bones. This is a celebratory ceremony where the body is removed from the family crypt and doused in wine or perfume. Family members may even dance with the body while a live band plays music.
New Orleans in the USA is a melting pot of traditions, from West African, to French, to American. This is no more apparent than in their funerals. During a traditional jazz funeral, a procession of mourners will follow a marching band. The music they play is mournful on the way to the gravesite, representing the grief of loss. After the burial, the music becomes more upbeat and the ceremony turns to one of dancing and an expression of joy at the life of the deceased.
There are a few interesting variations amongst Filipino cultures. One group in Northwestern Philippines blindfold their dead and place them at the entrance of their homes. Another, the Tinguian, will dress the body in formal clothing, sit them in a chair and give them a lit cigarette. The Apayo bury their dead under the kitchen.
This one happens all over the world, but you might be surprised to learn that it happens in our very own country too. Memorial diamonds are diamonds created from the carbon extracted from the deceased persons hair and ashes. Just like with any other synthetic diamond, they look real enough to the naked eye.
Similar to the memorial diamonds above, families in South Korea may have the remains of their loved ones pressed into decorative beads of turquoise, pink, and black. There is a practical reason for this – a law in the country requires families to remove a body from a gravesite after 60 years. It's a creative and practical solution to the dwindling space for graveyards.
A new custom known as green funerals is spreading throughout the USA. As the name suggests, these funerals are more environmentally conscious. The body is not embalmed and is buried in woven-willow coffins which are made from bio-degradable materials. Entirely green cemeteries are opening for those who prefer to be eco-friendly, even in the afterlife.
At first glance, some of these traditions may seem strange. Only when you dig deeper do you see, no matter how different they are to your own customs, they also share many similarities.
Funeral cover in South Africa probably wouldn't cover you for a Torajan-style ritual, but it will help cover the cost of the coffin, the ceremony, flowers, and food. Taking out a funeral policy now ensures that you could have a ceremony that fits your traditions.
Sources: SBS; TED; Algordanza
Prices quoted are correct at the time of publishing this article. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal, or medical advice.