Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Bahamian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about ancient Roman funeral traditions and Romanian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
The Bahamas includes more than 700 islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Protestant is the most common religion of the Bahamas at 80% followed by Roman Catholic at about 15%. Bahamian death beliefs include the belief the soul goes to heaven or hell but wanders until they reach it.
They also believe in the legend of the mythical creature called Anansi. This mythical creature is part spider, part human, and has the power to con the devil and death. It’s an African legend that slaves brought to the Bahamas.
In terms of the funeral service, Bahamian funeral traditions are similar to those in America and Canada. When someone passes away, the family has a wake at their home. The Bahamian funeral service is usually at a church depending on religion or at a funeral home. After the funeral service, there is a funeral procession to the burial spot.
Burial and Cremation
Bahamians may choose burial or cremation, but burial is usually most common. However, there is no embalming done for burials. If someone chooses a direct burial, there may be a graveside memorial service.
Burials are typically simple with environmentally-friendly pine caskets and located in a cemetery or churchyard. Families care more about honoring the deceased’s life and their afterlife transition rather than where and how they bury their body.
If someone chooses cremation, there may be a viewing before or a funeral service after with the ashes present. Then, the family may keep the ashes in an urn, bury them, or scatter them.
It’s not uncommon in the Bahamas for families to reuse gravesites. The main reason is that bodies can disappear within a decade. This is partially due to the limestone in the ground that works to quickly dissolve flesh and slowly dissolve bones and teeth. Limestone also is difficult to carve so it’s easier to reuse a grave rather than dig a new one. Also, there’s not a lot of burial space on the islands, which is another reason people reuse graves.
Since they reuse graves, a lot of gravesites don’t have a marked headstone and just a cross. Or, sometimes families may place a temporary grave marker, but they remember everyone’s burial spot. The gravesites also see a lot of deterioration due to tropical storms, limestone, salt water, and other natural elements.