Rabbi speaking with guest at funeral


day of the dead memorial layout

Day of the Dead

new orleans jazz band in street for funeral

New Orleans Jazz Band

Various Traditions

You may want to create a unique, creative touch by adding a cultural tradition to your celebration; one that has a direct connection to the honoree.


AFRICAN - Abussa Kuruwa, an earthen pot that family and friends may wish to fill with mementos such as pictures, flowers or stuffed animals to symbolize positive symbols of life and rebirth.

ABORIGINAL MORTUARY RITES IN AUSTRALIA - When a loved one dies in Aboriginal society in Australia's Northern Territory, elaborate rituals begin. First, a smoking ceremony is held in the loved one's living area to drive away their spirit. Next a feast is held, with mourners painted in ochre as they partake in food and dance. The body is traditionally placed atop a platform and covered in leaves as it is left to decompose.

ALASKAN ART - Many tribes carve totem poles with emblems, sacred animals or figures to represent special events that occurred throughout a lifetime. You may want to display woodcarvings, prints or slides of Alaskan art.

ANCIENT GREEKS - The Ancient Greeks believed that honoring the dead was as important as caring for the living. A beautiful scarf can be displayed and a fabric sprinkled with shiny coins can be placed around a ceremonial hat.

BUDDHIST VIGIL - Elements include a small paper flag, 108 votive candles, and three days of prayers and hymns. Attendees release the honoree's spirit into the afterlife.

CELTIC CUSTOMS - The Celtic community would gather for a feast, sing traditional songs and stage competitions in darts, pole vaulting and high jumping. In modern times, you may want to display a photograph of the honoree, play favorite songs and select favorite stories, along with games and outdoor activities.

CHINESE WATER LANTERNS - The Ghost Festival is a special holiday where the Chinese pay homage and offer thanks to their ancestors. Chinese lanterns, formed in the shape of lotus flowers, are set atop a buoyant piece of wood and cast upon the water. There are a number of ways to recreate this within your celebration.

DAY OF THE DEAD - (MEXICAN) Since the earliest stages of Mexican culture, Mexicans have embraced death as a part of life. The Mayans and Aztecs were both warrior cultures that practiced human sacrifice, revealing a casual acceptance of death. Combine this ancient belief with the Catholicism that missionaries brought to their country, and Celebration attendees will see a relaxed, yet deeply religious regard for death. This acceptance of death has defined some modern Mexican rituals, such as "The Day of the Dead." This is a celebration that honors those who are deceased. In this celebration, many Mexicans decorate with skeletons that dance and play instruments. Although other cultures may regard this as irreverent, it is not meant to trivialize the loss of a loved one. Conversely, it is actually meant to affirm their belief in an afterlife, and ease grief.

FUNERAL BELLS - From ancient times until recently, the bell was used to signal the death of a loved one. The bell rings twice for a woman and three times for a man. Bells rung at end of service celebrate the life the person led, and signify the happiness that the honoree will experience in the afterlife.

GHANA FANTASY COFFINS - In Ghana, people aspire to be buried in coffins that represent their work or something they loved in life. These so-called "fantasy coffins" were recently popularized by Buzzfeed, which showed images of 29 outrageous examples, including a businessman's coffin that was shaped like a Mercedes-Benz, an oversized fish coffin for a fisherman, and a really big Bible coffin for someone who loved going to church.

GREEN FUNERALS - In the United States, more and more people are opting for environmentally friendly burials. That means skipping embalming processes, nixing traditional concrete vaults and getting biodegradable, woven-willow caskets that decompose into the ground. The Green Burial Council has approved 40 environmentally friendly cemeteries in the United States. This number is way up from a decade ago. Another option is the memorial "reef ball." A company called Eternal Reefs compresses human remains into a sphere that is attached to a reef in the ocean, providing a habitat for sea life.

IRISH WAKES - Until modern times, Irish wake customs ran the gamut from profound grieving to what appeared to be rollicking good fun. This was especially true if the deceased was elderly. This curious mixture borne of a cultural blend of paganism and Christianity survives today in a more toned-down fashion.

ITALIAN FUNERAL - In keeping with Catholic traditions, Italian funerals often include rituals such as the last rites, prayer vigil, funeral liturgy, and Catholic Mass. Family or friends are chosen as pallbearers, and family may or may not choose to say a few words about the deceased.

NATIVE AMERICANS - Native American tribes share a common focus on protecting and making the deceased comfortable in the afterlife. Death rituals include placing food, gifts, weapons, jewelry, tools, or pots within the burial site for the deceased's use in the afterlife. Other common Native American death rituals include the following elements and concepts: A medicine man or spiritual leader leads the ritual. Deceased ancestors are asked to join in rituals such as pipe smoking. The circle, symbolic of the the circle of life, is represented in rituals. The burial is often done at a special site either close to or far away from the home of the deceased. Nature is revered; death is part of nature and death itself is a journey to another world.

NEW ORLEANS JAZZ - An iconic, boisterous, jazz-tinged New Orleans funeral procession fuses West African, French and African-American traditions. Funerals in New Orleans strike a unique balance between joy and grief, as mourners are lead by a marching band. The band plays sorrowful dirges at first, but once the body is buried, they shift to an upbeat note. Cathartic dancing is generally a part of the event, and it commemorates the life of the deceased.

SIGNALING AT SEA - Seafarers have used visual systems of communication including lanterns, flags, and flares to convey messages at sea since the beginning of time. Colorful marine flags strung across the entryway can be a striking focal point for someone who may have served the country during wartime.

SITTING SHIVAH - This somber seven day mourning tradition from the Jewish faith takes place at the home of the honoree or a relative. Immediate family members sit on low cushions or the floor to show humility during this time of grief, and mirrors are covered during this introspective time.

SKY BURIAL IN MONGOLIA AND TIBET - Many Vajrayana Buddhists in Mongolia and Tibet believe in the transmigration of spirits after death - that the soul moves on, while the body becomes an empty vessel. To return it to the earth, the body is chopped into pieces and placed on a mountaintop, which exposes it to the elements - including vultures. It's a practice that's been done for thousands of years but, according to a recent report, about 80% of Tibetans still choose it.

SOUTH KOREAN BURIAL BEADS - In 2014, The Week reported on a growing trend in South Korea, where a law passed in 2000 (due to dwindling graveyard space) mandates that anyone burying a loved must remove the grave after 60 years. As a result, cremation has become much more popular. However, families don't always opt for ashes. Several companies in South Korea compress the remains into gem-like beads in turquoise, pink or black. These "death beads" are then displayed in the home. Contact our Team for more details on any of these traditions.

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flower arrangement
flowers in a clear vase

Funeral Floral Customs
By Religion, Ethnicity, and Culture

Because the death of a friend or loved one is such an incredibly emotional and trying time, the observation of funeral etiquette in an effort to avoid offending or upsetting anyone is very important. Below is a guide to honoring customs and traditions at a viewing or wake, funeral, cremation or graveside service, according to various religious or cultural beliefs.


Appropriate expressions of sympathy include sending a card, attending the visitation or funeral, sending flowers to the family home or funeral home, donating to a charity designated by the family, or bringing food to the family's home.

The Protestant funeral ceremony emphasizes the afterlife and celebrates the deceased person's life through testimonials and remembrances. A minister usually conducts the service with participation from family and friends. Funeral guests should dress respectably, although most people no longer wear the traditional black clothing.


Floral arrangements may be sent to the funeral home or to the family's residence. Donations are appropriate and may be sent in the name of the deceased to their charity of choice.

Before the funeral, Catholics hold a vigil or wake. Candles and flowers are used to decorate the wake, as well as the funeral service and the burial ground. It is customary to make a brief visit and to spend a few moments in private prayer, followed by a visit with the family members.


Catholicism is the most common religion among the Hispanic population, and many Hispanics grew up participating in Roman Catholic Sunday mass and funeral traditions. The wake may include mariachis, overnight visitations and a family feast. Floral tributes are welcome. A simple bouquet given to the bereaved or a tribute in the shape of a cross or a personalized candle are all acceptable gifts, as is lighting a candle in the church.

Personal items and gifts may be laid in the casket to help the deceased have a successful journey to the afterworld. Burial follows the ceremony. Following the burial, the family usually gathers to eat, reminisce and comfort each other.

Mexicans and Central Americans believe that there are days when the dead return to walk among us, and that even though their loved ones' bodies have died, their spirits live on. They pray to them, talk to them and turn to them for guidance and support.

Funeral mass (requiem) is performed by a priest in a Catholic church. At the mass, lighting a candle to celebrate the departed brings comfort to the mourners. After the burial, family and friends will gather at the home of a close family member to share food and drink brought by family and friends.


Funeral Charitable donations are fitting memorial gifts. Please note that flowers are not appropriate. A rabbi performs the service and the burial takes place within 24 hours of death. Funeral attire consists of dark-colored clothing. Men wear a head covering known as a yarmulke, which is usually provided by the funeral home.

After the burial, the immediate family sits in mourning or "Shiva" in their home for the next seven days. It is customary for family, friends and coworkers to come by the home and pay their respects to the family. This is known as paying a Shiva call. Desserts, fruit and Kosher food baskets are traditionally taken to or sent to the home. Flowers, however, are not appropriate for a Shiva call.


Funeral White flowers are the traditional Buddhist flower of mourning and may be sent to the family. Sending red flowers or gifts of food is considered to be poor funeral etiquette.

A donation to the family or a designated charity in the name of the deceased is appropriate.

At the viewing, candles and incense burn until the body is moved to the cemetery or crematorium. Visitors should greet the family and offer their condolences, then go to the casket and bow. They may then either stay for a while or leave. Visitors will often make a financial donation to the family at the viewing.

A monk at the funeral home conducts the service. Guests are expected to bow slightly toward the body (in an open casket) as a sign of appreciation for its lessons regarding impermanence. The grieving family wears white, and friends often wear black. Friends may call at the home of the deceased's family after the funeral, but not before.


A Hindu priest and family members conduct the service. They try to hold the ceremony, followed by cremation, within 24 hours after death. Mourners dress casually in simple white clothes and arrive empty-handed. They do not bring flowers or anything else to the funeral. Guests should not exchange greetings with the official mourners, but instead nod or hug in sympathy. The less said the better. Flower garlands and mixed seasonal sprays of flowers may be in the open casket. Guests are expected to view the body.

Ten days after death, a ceremony is held at the home of the deceased in order to liberate the soul for its ascent into heaven. If you visit the home you are expected to bring fruit.


Opinion varies as to the appropriateness of sending flowers to an Islamic funeral. Some say the Islamic emphasis on simplicity makes gifts of flowers unsuitable. Others say sending flowers is appropriate.

Your best option is to ask a local religious leader or the family if flowers are appropriate. If they are, then fragrant flowers such as roses are very popular. Palm branches, other greens, or individual flowers are also often placed on the grave.


Floral tributes are encouraged and appropriate for a Mormon ceremony. However, please be sure not to send anything in the shape of a cross. Crosses and crucifixes are not permitted because Latter-Day Saints believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ.

Funerals are conducted by the bishop of the deceased's congregation, typically within one week of death, and may take place in a church, funeral home or at graveside.

Funerals are not normally held inside the temple. It is usually appropriate to visit or contact the family to offer condolences before and after the funeral. Modest attire (suit and tie for men; dress or suit for women) is appropriate. No head covering is required. Guests typically attend the burial following the funeral service.