Understanding How Different Cultures Honor Their Loved Ones After Death

Balinese offering

If you come from a family with shared traditions, you may have an idea of what funerals are like that is heavily influenced by your experience with them. Throughout our species’ history, however, several distinct funeral and memorial traditions have developed throughout the world. Recent human migration has spread these practices across the globe to places where they were once unknown. These cultural burial and funeral traditions include:

Tibetan Sky Burial

Unlike most Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhists living high in the Himalayas do not cremate their dead. Instead, they make specific incisions on the bodies of their loved ones before leaving the corpses on mountaintops, where the bodies are consumed by predatory birds. Believing that the spirit that once occupied the body has transmigrated into that of another being, Tibetans see no reason to preserve the body. Leaving it for the birds is seen as an act of generosity. Zoroastrians practice a similar funeral custom.

Australian Aboriginal Funeral Customs

The aboriginals of Australia have one of the oldest living cultures on earth. Many of them still practice a burial ritual that dates back more than 60,000 years. After celebrating the loved one’s life at a ceremony marked by dancing, singing, chanting, and body paint, the aborigines leave the body out on a raised platform for months. When only bones are left, loved ones scatter the bones in an environmentally friendly manner.

Bali Fire Burial

Cremation is the norm in most eastern religions. In Bali, a predominantly Hindu island in Indonesia, the bodies of deceased loved ones are burned, but not in a crematorium. Following a symbolic funeral ceremony, a body is interred in a community grave until it is deemed that enough bodies have been collected for a ritualistic fire burial. After unearthing, cleaning, and decorating the bodies pulled from the community grave, villagers march the bodies around in a parade before burning them all together.

Skylawn Memorial Park in San Mateo is a multicultural cemetery, and we seek to accommodate the customs and wishes of all those who use our services. Regardless of the burial or cremation service you are looking to hold, we will help you plan it. To speak with a compassionate and knowledgeable member of our multilingual staff, call (650) 349-4411.

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