Every culture has its own way of showing love and respect after a loved one's passing. Some cultures observe a period of somber mourning, while others observe funerals as a celebration of the deceased's life. From exhumations to sky burials, here's a look at five of the most interesting funeral customs around the world.
Tibet: Sky Burials
The Vajrayana Buddhists of Tibet believe that after death, the soul moves on from the body and finds a new home. In order to encourage this process, they section the body into pieces and leave it at the top of a mountain. This still-popular practice, it is believed, gives the spirit easier access to the sky.
Bali: Cremation Celebrations
Cremation is increasing in popularity around the world, but rarely is it performed with such pomp and circumstance as in Bali. The Balinese honor the deceased by assembling a large, lavish party. During the event, the body is placed in a float-like creation, sometimes shaped like a dragon or bull, and carried into the fire as loved ones stand witness.
Madagascar: Turning of the Bones
In Madagascar, most people are buried in large family crypts. Every five years or so, the family will visit the bodies of the deceased, which have been wrapped in cloth and placed in separate chambers. The bodies are exhumed, and the bones are sprayed with wine or perfume before being returned to the chambers. Often, this is done amidst live music and celebration, providing families time to share stories and remember the deceased once again.
Ghana: Fantasy Coffins
In the United States, most coffins are lavish, rectangular cases--but in Ghana, they can take on most any shape imaginable. It's popular for people to be buried in a case that represents something they loved or strove for in life. For example, there have been people buried in coffins shaped like their sports cars, fish, and Bibles.
Philippines: Tree Burials
The Caviteño are an ethnic group in the Philippines who bury their loved ones's bodies inside hollowed-out trees. Often, when death is imminent, the family will begin searching for the perfect tree for their loved one's burial. It's not unheard of for someone to select their own tree when facing a terminal illness, either.
These funeral customs around the world vary widely, but they all share one common theme: death is a time to honor the deceased and comfort the family.