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 Tanzanian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Burundian funeral traditions and Luo people of Kenya funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Religious and Death Beliefs
Christianity is Tanzania’s most common religion at 61% of the population. While the next most popular religion is Islam at 35% of the population. Additionally, there also is a small percentage of people either practicing a Folk Religion or not identifying with a religion.
Many people believe life continues after death in spirit form, and they have funeral rituals to make sure the deceased doesn’t cause misfortunes to the living. They also believe if you broke the law, you may become an afterlife ghost and your ancestors may punish you.
Tanzanian Funeral Customs
A Tanzanian funeral is for both mourning and celebrating the deceased’s life. After the funeral, some mourners dance to help the deceased on their afterlife journey.
Burial is the most common end-of-life arrangement. To prevent the deceased from haunting the living, they make sure the deceased receives the proper burial rituals. They also bury the deceased with some of their belongings to take on their afterlife journey.
Tanzanians honor and remember their ancestors through various rituals, and they also believe their ancestors influence the living world. For example, at a social gathering, people may pour a small part of their drink on the ground to show respect to their ancestors. Or they may leave a drink as an offering in a special place or sacrifice a chicken or a goat at a ceremony.