Since 1908, when America witnessed its largest influx of immigrants, the United States has served as a haven for those seeking to live out the American dream. Today, the United States is experiencing it’s a second great wave of immigration, as immigrants from the still developing worlds of Asia and Latin America make it their home. As cities and towns become increasingly multicultural, it is essential for funeral service providers to be cognizant of the role that religion plays in the funeral services of the residents of the communities they serve. The following is an overview of the rituals and beliefs of several of the cultures that are becoming a greater part of the fabric of America, in the hope that it will provide some degree of insight for funeral service professionals who are called upon to care for them. It should be noted, however, that some of these customs may not always be applicable in certain areas, and funeral directors should consult with the religious leaders of the various groups to become familiar with their specific needs.
Religion And Clothing
In the United States, the custom among most funeral-goers is to wear black, as it signifies mourning or death. However, in many religions, black is not the traditional color of mourning. Buddhists, for example, wear white loose fitting clothes, as mourners are expected to meditate during the ceremony. Followers of the Greek Orthodox religion expect mourners to wear navy blue clothing to signify death, and the deceased’s widow must wear black clothing for up to two years after a spouse’s death to signify mourning. During Islamic funeral services, women are expected to cover their heads and arms and are not allowed to be seated near the men. Followers of Judaism also believe that mourners should be covered. Jewish men must wear a yarmulke or a kippah. Clothing differences are not the only factors funeral providers should be aware of. Many religions also have differing views on how long the body should be held before burial.
Life After Death
The Hmong, an ethnic group originating in China, Thailand and Laos, believe that a funeral should last for three days. The funeral is the most important part of the Hmong culture and must be performed properly to ensure a prosperous afterlife for the deceased. Family members play a key role in helping to prepare the body for burial and adorn it with food, wine, clothing and money to protect the deceased’s soul from evil spirits as it journeys to the other world. Followers of the Baha’I religion must be buried within a one hour traveling radius of the place where the death occurred. The most striking differences in the various religions can be seen in the traditions that are carried out during the funeral service.
Religion And Funeral Services
In Buddhist ceremonies, guests are expected to view the body and offer a small bow in front of the casket to honor the deceased. The funeral ceremony includes chanting and individual offerings of incense. Although rituals may vary according to the traditions of a particular sect, Jewish funeral services are conducted by a Rabbi and typically require a closed casket. Additionally, mourners are not permitted to enter during the recessional, processional or reading of eulogies during the services. Following the services, the body is taken to the grave site for interment. The immediate family then recites the Kaddish, a prayer about God and his relationship with the mourners. Others in attendance recite only the limited responses. After prayers, each person places a shovel-full of dirt on the casket. Scientologists, on the other hand, do not believe in the concept of a funeral because they believe that the deceased has not died but merely moved on to another level of life. As a result, they refer to their services as memorial services.
The Greatest Honor
As the face of America changes, it is increasingly important for funeral directors to not only comfort their clients in their time of need but also respect their cultural rites and rituals. By honoring the traditions of the dead and respecting their cultural and religious customs, funeral directors help create a meaningful experience for those who grieve.
If you or a family member have any further questions or concerns with respect to cremation, cremation services, cremation costs or a direct cremation please feel free to contact Cremation Options toll free 24 hours daily at 1-877-989-9090.