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Guitar-Shaped CoffinLosing a loved one can be hard. Throughout human history, societies all over the planet have had very specific ways of handling death. When you are used to the specific mourning rituals of your own culture, it can be surprising to hear about the varied ways other groups handle grief. Explore some of these interesting international funeral customs, and discover the threads that make everyone human. 


Though a large number of funeral rites have origins that date back hundreds of years, there are some that have taken off in more recent times. In South Korea, dwindling available land forced the government to pass a law in 2000 requiring that all buried bodies must be exhumed within 60 years to make space for new graves. This has led to most people opting for cremation. The most popular method of handling the deceased’s body, however, is having the remains transformed into beads that can be prominently displayed in a home the same way an urn would be.

Sky Burial

While South Korea’s laws were born of a practical need, a large number of funeral customs stem from religious beliefs. In Mongolia, there is a belief among Vajrayana Buddhists that the soul merely inhabits the body as a vessel during a person’s life. When death comes and the soul leaves the body behind, the physical remains no longer serve any purpose. To this day, the most popular way of disposing of a loved one’s body in this region is by chopping it up and placing it on a high mountain to be taken by the elements and animals.

The Circle of Life

While mankind has a countless number of ways to deal with death, the rest of the planet easily falls into the circle of life. When a plant or animal dies, its body becomes nourishment for other animals and plants, continuing the perpetual cycle that keeps the world spinning. With more and more people trying to do what’s best for the planet, a number of eco-friendly burial options have arisen. It is now possible to have your remains planted along with a new tree or turned into a piece of coral used to help stimulate growth on an ocean reef.

Works of Art

In Ghana, there has been a recent surge of popularity in customized coffins. While many Western nations focus on the durability or materials used for a particular casket, Ghanaians wish for their coffins to reflect the lives they lived. For example, a man who spent his life tending to chickens on a farm might desire to be buried in a coffin that was crafted by a woodworker to look like a chicken. This option has gained a bit of media attention in recent years, and there was even a BuzzFeed list ranking some of the more interesting casket designs.

Turning of the Bones

In Madagascar, there is a particular funeral custom known as famadihana. Translated loosely as “the turning of the bones,” this is a ritual during which a family gathers roughly five years after the death of a loved one and exhumes the body. Because of decay and decomposition, the body of the deceased is perfumed and sprayed with wine to keep it fresh. The family members dance with the body and share stories that have transpired since the loved one’s passing. It is a way of connecting to loved ones and keeping their memories alive.

The death of a close friend or relative can be an incredibly difficult experience. The human race has developed endless mourning methods and rituals to help ease the pain of the situation. Explore the different ways people grieve, and it might even illuminate some answers for yourself as you contemplate how you’d like affairs handled upon your own passing.

Category: Funeral

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