Death Rituals from Around the World
  Tuesday, Dec 15th, 2015

Death Rituals from Around the World

death rituals

Most of us living in the western world have been to several funeral services or memorials  in our lives, and as we grow older they seem to become more frequent. We receive or give condolences, listen or read some incredible eulogies about the deceased, and then we head to the grave or memorial site to say our final goodbyes. Funerals are often times of mixed emotions, there is sadness, grieving, sympathy, and even happiness as we share stories about our fallen friend or family member. This is a fairly standard process for western funerals and our culture at large, but what about other countries? Different cultures and different religions have their own ways of mourning and saying goodbye.

South Africa

There are some unique differences that occur in South Africa compared to that of North America. While the service itself may not be drastically different, what happens afterwards can be. The room of the deceased is cleared of all furniture, and the windows of the home where the person passed may be smeared with ash. Mourners can then enter the deceased's room and share memories of them there. In recent years, an ‘after tears’ party has become part of the process as well. Mourners will meet up for drinks and light hearted stories to remember the fallen and comfort friends and family members.


The funeral process in Iran can be weeks long, and smaller acts of remembrance can take place for months after a person's death. The body is prepared by being washed nine times and wrapped in a white veil. During the funeral procession, large crowds of people will often help carry the coffin, and surround it until it reaches its destination. It is considered highly holy to touch the coffin. There are several important days in the coming weeks for mourners:

  1. Third Day: Memorial service is held with flower arrangements, and sprinkled rose water.

  1. Seventh Day: Mourners visit the grave, and food is handed out to the less fortunate.

  1. Fortieth Day: Mourners who have been wearing black can start wearing normal clothes again. At this time, a gravestone is placed on the grave.


Though the traditional Irish wake faded around 1970, it was a commonplace before then. This tradition involved the body of the deceased being placed in a coffin, in their own home, and usually in the biggest room of the house. Family and friends would gather around to tell stories, rejoice and share drinks in honour of the deceased. These were often not times of sadness, rather they were times of joy, celebration and a chance to remember the good times with the departed.

Though many cultures and countries have their own traditions for funerals, one thing is certain, this is a time for remembrance and sharing the special moments spent with friends and loved ones.

Tags: funerals, memorial, death rituals, culture, world