Funerals around the world

Whilst more and more people in the UK are choosing to personalise their funeral, we still tend to follow a conventional format. Beyond these shores however, other cultures treat funerals very differently.

Across the Atlantic, ceremonies in New Orleans combine the solemnity of a European funeral with more upbeat African traditions. A jazz band plays slow, sombre numbers on the march to the funeral, but quickly swings into up-tempo, happier tunes as soon as the service has ended and the deceased’s life is celebrated.

In some parts of the world it is common practice to hire professional mourners, known as moirologists, sobbers, wailers or criers. Paid mourners are used in cultures where the number of people attending a funeral and the level of grief displayed are seen as important indicators of the deceased’s status in terms of wealth and popularity. The practice of hiring mourners is believed to have begun in China and the Middle East over 2,000 years ago and has since become popular in Africa and some Western countries.

In the Sagada region of the Philippines, the coffins of members of the Igorot tribe are hung high from the side of cliffs alongside those of their ancestors. In a tradition that dates back thousands of years, people carve their own coffins before they die. The deceased are placed into their coffin in the foetal position as the Igorots believe that a person should leave the world in the same way they entered it.

The timing of burials also varies from culture to culture. With Jewish funerals, the body should be buried as quickly as possible, ideally within 24 hours. Coffins are always biodegradable to help the deceased to quickly return to nature. In contrast, Sweden seems to be in no particular rush to bury their deceased. With an average of 20 days between death and burial, Swedes have the world’s longest wait before being laid to rest.

Dwindling graveyard space in South Korea means that cremation is becoming increasingly popular, but families don’t always opt for ashes. Several companies are turning remains into colourful gem-like ‘death beads’ which can be displayed in the home. The ashes are heated to ultra-high temperatures which reduces then to a molten state before solidifying as crystals.   

At WR Bettelley we believe that funerals should be tailored to you and your family. There are so many ways to personalise a funeral, whether you simply want a special selection of music or you want to be more creative.

For more information please call us on 01782 313542 or email

Recent news

What to do with a loved one’s ashes

28th October 2019

Trend towards bespoke funerals continues to grow

25th September 2019


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