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Throughout its history, humanity has created many methods of paying tribute and to their deceased relatives and friends. The first traces of mourning rituals date back to the earliest human history. Nowadays, every culture and religion has its own ritual style, which can significantly differ from each other (Lear, 2014). However, in general, they all have one purpose, which is to mark the transition from life to death and pay tribute to a deceased person. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to show how morning rituals differ from each other in different cultures.
Christian Mourning Traditions
When a Christian person dies, their body is cleaned, dressed, and put into a coffin, where it lies for several days before the funeral so that all their friends and relatives could visit the church with the coffin and bid their farewells to the deceased. At the funeral, there is always a ceremony performed by a priest, where he preaches, and the closest people to the deceased usually wearing black clothes listen and make speeches. The ceremony takes place at a cemetery, where the deceased inside a coffin is buried underground (Lear, 2014). The atmosphere at the ceremony is always depressing and dismal, and most people usually cry.
After the funeral, the repast usually takes place, where those who knew the deceased share memories of them with each other and feast in their honor. After the funeral day, Christians regularly visit their dead relatives and friends at the cemetery and bring some food, drinks, and flowers to them. Additionally, people usually provide gestures of sympathy for the bereaved family (Rosenblatt, 2013). They can be in a form of a note expressing the condolences of some relatives and friends of the deceased if they cannot attend the funeral, a mass card, flowers and meals, donation to the family’s charity, and so on.
Hindu Mourning Traditions
Hindu mourning traditions significantly differ from those of the Christians. In general, Hindu’s belief is based on the concept of the so-called samsara or reincarnation. The ultimate purpose of Hindus is to break this cycle of rebirths impelled by karma and become free from lust, thereby attaining the so-called moksha or the state of eternal bliss. Thus, since Hindus do not regard death as the end of life but merely as a change in a long journey of the soul, it is not usual to see too much gloom and crying at the funeral (Bhuvaneswar & Stern, 2013). Moreover, Hindus believe that excessive lamenting can cause harm to the soul of a deceased.
Unlike Christians, at the funeral, Hindus wear white clothes. According to Hinduism, bodies of the dead are to be cremated, and the mourning period lasts thirteen days. The cremation must take place at dusk after the sunset or at dawn before the sunrise in a day after the death. On the thirteenth day of mourning, the so-called shaddra takes place. This is a ceremony of a fire sacrifice and offerings to the god. At the end of this day, the family cleans their family shrine and makes more offerings to the god in order to make the afterlife journey of their relative more peaceful (Bhuvaneswar & Stern, 2013). After this day, the family returns to their everyday responsibilities.
Muslim Mourning Traditions
In Islam, like in Christianity, there is a belief in the afterlife. Muslims also have the concept of heaven and hell, which they call Jannah and Jahannam. The funeral usually takes place right before the sunset within a day after death. At the funeral ceremony, the closest friends and relatives are usually present. They offer their condolences to the bereaved family and show their support. According to the Quran, expressing too many emotions at the funeral is forbidden.
Like in Hinduism, in Islam, the mourning period is fixed. It is three days for the closest friends and relatives and four months and ten days for the widow. During this period, they must avoid wearing decorative clothes and jewelry, and the widow is not allowed to marry (Kalyango, Myssayeva, & Mohammed, 2015). The wake usually takes place in the bereaved family’s home, where they provide drinks and food to the visitors during those three days.
Buddhist Mourning Traditions
According to Buddhist burial traditions, the funeral takes place within seven days after the death. Like Hindus, Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and their final goal is to release from all human desires, thereby attaining enlightenment and reaching the so-called state of nirvana. However, despite the similarities between these two religions in terms of what happens after death, the burial rituals are different. Thus, Buddhists have two options as to how they bury their dead. However, according to the study conducted in 2014, in which 78 Buddhist families participated, nearly 65% chose cremation when their relatives died (Sik & Sik, 2016). They can choose either cremation, after which the remains are placed in an urn and given to the family of the deceased, or underground burial, which is similar to that in Christianity.
When a person dies, their body must not be moved for some time, as Buddhists believe that the soul does not leave the body immediately after death. The wake, at which the family members and friends are present, takes place before the funeral. Monks can also be present at the wake. The study showed that almost 80% of Buddhists prefer the monks to be at the wake. At the funeral, the monks perform chanting service, which is a prayer in the form of a song. The color for the funeral clothing is white. After the funeral, the coffin is sealed and brought to either a cemetery or crematorium (Sik & Sik, 2016). Like in Christianity, the mourning period is not fixed.
Jewish Mourning Traditions
The process of mourning in Jewish traditions is the most extensive. Unlike Hindus and Muslims, it is normal and even good to express emotions at the funeral and during the period of mourning, as, according to Judaism, the main purpose of mourning is to show respect to the dead and comfort the living. In order to enhance the significance of the event, some Jewish families even hire moirologists, professional mourners who lament at the funeral. According to the study conducted in 2013, in which 84 Jewish families participated, every fifth of them hired professional mourners at the funeral of their relatives.
A week after the funeral, which is called shiva, is the period of mourning. At this time, the bereaved family stays at home and receives condolences from their friends and other relatives. They cover all the mirrors in the house and wear old and ragged clothes with a black ribbon attached to them (Rubin, 2015). In addition, it is forbidden for men to shave. After shiva, people return to their everyday duties.
Currently, there are many mourning traditions in the world. They completely depend on religion, culture, and personal beliefs of people. Although all these traditions ultimately have the same goal, which is to mark the transition between life and death and to show respect to the deceased, they express it in different ways. Thus, for example, in some cultures, the funeral color is black, while in others, it is white. Nevertheless, whatever the culture or religion, it is natural to express emotions when someone dies even if they are forbidden, as the one who has died will not come back.
Bhuvaneswar, C. G., & Stern, T. A. (2013). Teaching cross-cultural aspects of mourning: A Hindu perspective on death and dying. Palliative & Supportive Care, 11(1), 79.
Kalyango Jr, Y., Myssayeva, K. N., & Mohammed, A. (2015). Visual representation of Shiite Muslim mourning rituals. Visual Communication Quarterly, 22(3), 146-159.
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Lear, J. (2014). Mourning and moral psychology. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 31(4), 470-481.
Rosenblatt, P. C. (2013). Family grief in cross-cultural perspective. Family Science, 4(1), 12-19.
Rubin, S. S. (2015). Loss and mourning in the Jewish tradition. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 70(1), 79-98.
Sik, H. H., & Sik, F. R. (2016). A case study of the decline of the Buddhist funeral ritual, the Guangdong Yuqie Yankou. Contemporary Buddhism, 17(1), 116-137.