Interesting Funeral Traditions Outside of America

Here in the U.S. we’re familiar with our common funeral traditions, but not all of us are aware of the other death rituals and honoring of loved ones that go on around the world. Listed are six intriguing afterlife traditions practiced outside of America.

Hanging Coffins

Certain ethnic groups in the Philippines and China have long been practicing traditional hanging coffins high along the mountainsides. The tradition is believed the higher the coffin was to the sky, the closer they were to heaven, to grant easier passage to afterlife.

Burial Beads

Due to dwindling graveyard space, people in South Korea often have their cremation remains compressed into gem or stone-like beads, known as “burial beads” or “death beads”. Many leave the beads on display in the jar, and others make jewelry with them to wear.

Fantasy Coffins

In Ghana, people are often buried in a coffin shaped like something that represents their work or that was of significance to them. For example, a pilot could get a plane, or a fisherman may get a fish.

Turning of the Bones

The Malagasy people of Madagascar perform a ritual called famadihana or “turning of the bones,” where every five to seven years they remove their deceased family members bones from their ancestral crypts. They then dance with their loved ones bones to connect with them, celebrate, and reflect on their life.

Sky Burial

In Tibet, Buddhists practice a death ritual or “sky burial,” where they take the body to charnel grounds to feed the vultures and crows. They believe it encourages the dead to be released from their greatest earthly attachment–their body, while also recycling their remains to nature.

Body Next to Home Entrance

Many ethnic groups in the Philippines blindfold their dead and place them next to the main entrance of their house. The Tinguian people dress the body in their best clothes, sit them on a chair, and place a lit cigarette in their lips.

Although these alternative traditions may seem peculiar compared to the funerals we’re familiar in America, different cultural practices can be pretty interesting. Creativity, even for death rituals, isn’t something the human species seems to lack.

Although these alternative traditions may seem peculiar compared to the funerals we’re familiar in America, different cultural practices can be pretty interesting. Creativity, even for death rituals, isn’t something the human species seems to lack.


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