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 is a special edition of our series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. We’ll look at Asian funeral traditions discussed during the 2018 NFDA Convention workshop titled Asian Culture in Cremation and Funerals presented by Funeral Director Charles An.
Chinese Funeral Traditions
This presentation’s first look at Asian funeral traditions takes us to China. Feng Shui plays an important role in a Chinese funeral service — as it harmonizes people and the environment. Burning joss paper is another key funeral ritual. Mourners burn joss paper to send goods to the deceased in their next life. They even take photos and videos of the joss paper burning to document that they burned enough items for the deceased.
Every year on either April 4 or 5, Chinese people celebrate the Qingming Festival. During the festival, families clean and repair their loved ones gravesites. They also place flowers, prayer candles, and food on the grave and burn incense.
Vietnamese Funeral Traditions
Funeral Director Charles An also highlighted some notable Vietnamese funeral traditions. When someone dies, they place grains of rice and a gold coin or gold pieces in their mouth. For the funeral, monks lead everyone in prayers and chants to help the deceased on their journey.
A Vietnamese funeral can last two to three days, and it’s common to see mourners take a lot of photos and videos at the funeral. They also set up a table with food, red candles, incense, and other important funeral items. There just needs to be enough room for the monks to walk around the table while leading the prayers and chants.
Korean Funeral Traditions
The church usually is heavily involved in a Korean funeral service. Koreans stick to a strict schedule for the funeral events and don’t like to stray from it. Like Vietnamese funerals, Korean funerals can last three days.
When someone dies, Koreans don’t say “I’m sorry for your loss,” Instead, they may say “My condolences.” Many people also send condolence cards with flowers and a short note. If the deceased was 65 or older, they receive red flowers as they’re thought to have lived a full life. While if the deceased was younger than 65, they receive white flowers to mourn their loss at a young age. Many families also send condolence gifts on the one-year anniversary of their death.
To learn more about Asian funeral traditions and other funeral customs across the world, click here.