How Do Different Cultures Honour Their Dead 

24 Apr 2023

We have developed different ways on how to cope with loss and how we express our grief, respect and love for our departed ones.  

People all over the world have also developed various ways to honour the dead. These practices can vary widely depending on their religious beliefs, geographical locations, historical traditions and individual customs. 

How different cultures honour their dead 

For example, in many Western cultures, funerals are typically held in a church or funeral home, and the body is often buried in a cemetery. Family and friends gather to share stories and memories about the deceased, and there may be a religious or secular ceremony to honour their life. 

In some African cultures, funerals are often elaborate and can last for several days. They may involve music, dancing, and other rituals that celebrate the life of the deceased. Notice here that it’s about celebrating life. This might be how some people cope with the painful loss. Instead of savouring the pain, some people chose to celebrate life instead and remember how their loved ones touched their lives. 

In some parts of Asia, such as China and Japan, families may hold regular ceremonies to honour their ancestors, and there may be special festivals or holidays dedicated to honouring the dead. These ceremonies might be happening once a year, and people and families might take their time preparing for those days when they remember and honour their loved ones. 

In Mexico and other Latin American countries, the Day of the Dead is a festive holiday where families gather to remember and honour their deceased loved ones. They may create elaborate altars with photos, candles, and offerings of food and drink to welcome the spirits of the dead back to the living world. Also notice here that it’s festive and people chose to focus on celebration instead of re-experiencing the pain and loss. 

In some Indigenous cultures, such as those found in North America and Australia, funerals may involve a spiritual ceremony that includes singing, dancing and storytelling. The body may be buried in a sacred or ancestral site, and there may be ongoing rituals and ceremonies to honour the deceased. 

Gratitude and living 

The aim here is to remember the dead and how they touched our lives. Although we’ll still re-experience the pain and relive many of the moments we shared with them, honouring them can also remind us to appreciate and value what we still have and perhaps look beyond death and instead focus on gratitude and living.