Funeral Traditions: Cultural Differences

At the Funeral (burial)

The loss of a love one is extremely personal, and most cultures and religions have unique funeral traditions to celebrate departed family members. The following overview shines light on some of these international funeral service traditions:

  • Western Funerals
    Funerals planned in North America and Europe are heavily influenced by Christian traditions. The acts of sending flowers , making donations to a favorite church or charity, and black dress colors are all characteristics of a Western-influenced funeral.

    Roman Catholic funerals often involve additional religious touches, such as wakes, graveside prayers, and burial rites. While pioneered through religious communities, many of these traditions are no longer specific to the Catholic faith. In fact, most Western funerals incorporate some of these components as a part of cultural tradition.

  • Middle Eastern Funerals
    Funeral traditions in the Middle East are derived from Muslim and Jewish faiths. Muslim funeral traditions require the body to be buried as quickly as possible. Key features of a Muslim funeral include a silent procession, three days of mourning, and gifts of food. Unlike Western funerals, the sending of flowers is not an appropriate gesture in Muslim tradition.

    Similarly, Jewish funerals take place within a day of a family member’s passing. All men, even those of non-Jewish descent, are required to wear a yarmulke to the ceremony. Jewish tradition also calls for a mourning period, which lasts seven days. Again, flowers are an inappropriate condolence in Jewish tradition.

  • Pan-Asian Funerals
    Funerals in the Buddhist tradition are remarkably different than their Western counterparts. As Buddhists believe in the passing of life and journey toward Nirvana, funerals are a cause for celebration. Flowers are an appropriate gift of condolence, but food is not.

    On the other end of the scale, Hindu funerals take place in the home soon after the loved one’s passing. The ceremony waits until after a ceremonial cremation. Fruit is the most appropriate condolence gift for funerals in the Hindu tradition.

Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland celebrates all types of funeral traditions . Contact us at (510) 992-6709 to learn how our grounds can accommodate your unique cultural needs.