When You Celebrate The Dead...

When You Celebrate The Dead...
The Bon Festival is celebrated in different regions of Japan at different times throughout the year, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Discover how the alive wish good luck to the deceased on their journey in the afterlife in different countries around the globe

Meenketan Jha
February 19 , 2019
03 Min Read

Death in many parts of the world tends to be a somber affair. The pyres, the rituals, the tears have become a part of custom. Mourning the death rather than focusing on the colorful life of the individual are part of the norm. While death in India is met with tremendous grief, there are other cultures around the world that celebrate the dead. 

Maybe it's time that we see death from a different perspective. As the English novelist Philip Pullman put it, "You'll drift apart, it's true, but you'll be out in the open, part of everything alive again". Here are some incredibly unique and extraordinary death rituals from around the world that will be give you a distinct outlook.  

Mexico 

An ofrenda at the Day of the Dead

Can you recall watching the movie Coco and shedding buckets full of tears as Miguel meets his ancestors in the Land of the Dead? Inspired by Mexican holiday Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos, Coco is an emphatic tribute to this special festival. Dating back to the historic Aztec Empire, families take the opportunity to clean and decorate the graves of their ancestors. Private altars called ofrendas, honoring the dead with their favorite beverages and food, are also built. Families congregate to celebrate the afterlife of those who have passed and their telling contribution to the present family line. 

Indonesia

People taking part in traditional cremation ceremony Ngaben

No tears are shed at this out-of-the-world funeral ritual in Bali. The tradition witnesses families treating the deceased as if they were alive with the body in a relaxed sleeping position. This Buddhist ceremony going by the name of Ngaben is understood as a process of sending the dead to the next life. The climax of the traditions comes when the body of the deceased is placed in a coffin and burned. It is said that the fire will free the spirit from the body thus beginning the process of reincarnation. 

Japan 

Red lanterns are important part of the Bon Festival

The Japanese celebrate their dead through a traditional Japanese dance at the Bon Festival. The dances are native to the region and represent the area's history and specialization. This 500-year old Buddhist custom is one of the most important days in the island nation's calendar. Evolving into a family reunion holiday where the people pay tribute to their ancestors by cleaning their graves and homes, the festival is three day long and starts at different times depending on the region of the country. The Japanese believe that during these three days their ancestors are supposed to revisit their household altars. 

Ghana

Traditional coffin in the shape of a shoe

Death and passion- that's what Ghana's funeral customs bring together. In this African nation, the deceased are buried in coffins that reflect their passion. Coming in the shapes of animals, luxury cars, and many other forms, the locals believe that the death isn't the end. According to Ghanains, the afterlife is exactly like our lives on Earth and hence the coffins are a vessel through which the dead can continue pursuing their passions in the upcoming life.

Cambodia

Buddhist monks are in expectation of food and money offerings during Pchum Ben

For 15-days, Cambodia pays respect to its ancestors for upto 7 generations during the Pchum Ben festival. Monks chant the sutra in Pali overnight continuously in prelude to the gates of hell opening. This certain event is said to happen once a year when the ghosts of the dead are extremely active. Offerings of food are made to the ghosts in order to appease them. The celebrations also witnesses intense competitions in the sport of wrestling and buffalo racing.


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