Funerals are an essential part of many cultures. They are a way to acknowledge the departure of a loved one, reflect on their life and heritage and pay tribute to their memory. The way people celebrate someone's life and say their final goodbyes may differ from culture to culture. And in particular, how do Asian funerals differ from their Western counterparts?
Religious Beliefs and Rituals
Religion plays a significant role in most Asian funerals, with several religious traditions and customs incorporated into the ceremony. For instance, Buddhism is prevalent in many parts of Asia, and the funeral rituals strictly adhere to Buddhist customs. The ceremony typically involves chanting, prayers and the burning of incense, while the attendees wear white clothes as a symbol of mourning.
On the other hand, most Western funerals have religious undertones, with the ceremony held in a church or any other religious place. Moreover, the religious aspects of the ceremony are not as elaborate as Asian funerals.
The Wake and Viewing
Asian funerals are usually more extended than Western funerals and may span multiple days. During this time, the body is displayed, and attendees come to pay their respects. The viewing is open to every guest, and it's customary for attendees to bow in front of the deceased person's body and offer flowers or incense.
In Western funerals, the wake and viewing are usually held on the same day, a few hours before the actual ceremony. The body isn't usually displayed, making it a more private affair.
Cremation vs Burial
In many Asian cultures, cremation is more common than burials. It's a process that's viewed as a way to release the soul from the body and allow it to enter the afterlife. In some Asian countries, such as Japan, the cremated remains are interred in a family plot, while others, like China, scatter the ashes at sea.
In contrast, Western funerals most commonly involve burial, where the deceased person's body is buried in a cemetery. However, cremation is becoming more popular as people seek alternative ways to commemorate their loved ones.
In most Asian funerals, wearing white clothes is customary as it symbolises mourning. In several cultures, it's also considered inappropriate to wear bright colours that symbolise joy. In Western funerals, wearing black is considered appropriate, although wearing subdued colours is also acceptable.
What's the Bottom Line?
Funerals are a way to bid our final goodbyes to loved ones, celebrate their life and reflect on their heritage. However, Asian funerals and Western counterparts have significant differences. So, if you need to prepare an Asian funeral, work with funeral directors with experience to get the best result.
For more information on Asian funerals, contact a professional near you.