Fascinating Funeral Customs from Around the World

The head of a black buffalo during a cremation ceremony in Indonesia.

With all of the interesting and amazing different funeral rituals around the world, it’s easy to see how some of them can serve as an inspiration when it comes to personalizing the funeral of a loved one. As you read along, keep in mind any particular customs that spark your interest. Here at Solimine Funeral Homes, we are always available to help ensure that the funeral you plan reflects the life that was lived. Please feel free to contact us to learn more about how we can help you personalize a funeral.

Tana Toraja, Indonesia

Tana Toraja is a beautiful mountain region located in the Sulawesi Highlands in Southern Indonesia. Here, death is not considered final, and it is the most important aspect of one’s life cycle. The Torajan people work very hard throughout their life to save money, but not for the purpose of spending it while they are alive; in fact, they save their money for an extravagant send off in death. In their culture, they eschew private mourning for a large celebration of life. The deceased is not immediately buried, but instead will be kept with their family until their funeral. Torajans consider the person to be ‘sick’ and not truly deceased until their burial.

Bali, Indonesia    

In another corner of Indonesia, interesting funeral rituals also occur, mainly when it comes to cremation. The traditional Balinese cremation ceremony, called Ngaben, is considered to be a joyous celebration in their culture. On the day of the ceremony, the body of the deceased is placed in a Wadah (a large structure made of paper mâché, wood and bamboo) and is then carried to the cremation site in a procession that feels more like a jubilant parade. As Hindus, the Balinese view the soul as eternal, that it returns to the Earth, over and over until the soul reaches nirvana. With this view of reincarnation, the Balinese view one’s passing as a celebration, to rejoice in either the person’s soul being reborn, or that their soul is finally at peace. Ngaben is a time to help the deceased move on from their previous life to their new one. After reaching the cremation site, the body is transferred to a Lembu (a funerary box in the shape of an ox) and a priest oversees the burning of the body. Finally, 12 days after the cremation, the ashes are scattered into the sea, or a river leading to the sea in a final act of purification.


At 99.85%, Japan has one of the highest cremation rates in the world. The majority of Japanese have Buddhist ceremonies. While Buddhist ceremonies can differ, they all generally have the body washed with the head pointed to the north. A priest then recites prayers next to the body before placing it into a hitsugi (coffin). After death, the immediate family holds a vigil, or wake, over the body of the deceased. During the wake, people attending the funeral typically bring a monetary offering to the family to help offset the high funeral expenses. The attendees also burn incense to pray for the soul of the deceased. The funeral is held the day after the wake, with the body being cremated after the service. After being cremated, the family may scatter the ashes if they so choose, but typically the urn is placed in a monument-like grave.


When a person from Ghana passes, the people of this country view their funeral as a celebration instead of a time of sadness. Funerals here are an extravagant affair and can cost upwards of $15,000. Ghanaians respect the dead so much, that funerals are one of the most important social gatherings in their culture, usually occurring on Saturdays and frequently becoming an all-night party.        

With its celebratory atmosphere, a funeral has food, drink, music, singing and dancing, often with a drum group or a DJ. After partying, dancing doesn’t stop, as pallbearers will continue to dance while they carry the casket at the funeral procession.

Speaking of the casket, one of the most interesting aspects of a Ghana funeral that sets it apart from other cultures is the use of extravagant and decorative caskets. Sometimes called ‘fantasy coffins,’ they are built to represent the deceased’s favorite things or to reflect their profession. Some coffin themes have included ones made in the shape of cars, planes, even a chili pepper and a soda bottle!         

Feeling Inspired? Contact us!

If you’ve got some good ideas about how you’d like to personalize your funeral, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can help you plan a funeral that is exactly to your tastes and specifications. You can even start pre-planning your ceremony with us. We are available by phone at (781) 595-1492 or visit our website at www.solimine.com.

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