What to Know About Four Remarkable Religions’ Funeral Traditions

Dec 29, 2016 | 0 comments

Many people have questions about the religious funeral traditions for adherents of the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Greek Orthodox faiths. These four separate podcasts on A Good Goodbye Radio with host Gail Rubin, CT, offer in-depth insights.

Jewish Funeral Traditions

Jewish starEven though Jewish funeral traditions are thousands of years old, many Reform and Conservative Jews today are unfamiliar with those rites. David Zinner, founder and executive director of Kavod v’Nichum (Honor and Comfort), a nonprofit organization that works to restore Jewish death and bereavement practices, discusses Jewish funeral traditions on this episode of A Good Goodbye Radio.

Topics discussed during the show include:

  • The differences between Jewish and Christian funeral traditions;
  • What are the Chevrah Kaddisha, shmira and tahara;
  • Who can perform the washing and dressing of the dead;
  • How Jewish burial is naturally green burial;
  • Jewish traditions around dying, death, funerals, burials, cemeteries, grief and mourning.

For more information, read this blog post.

Muslim Funeral Traditions

Crescent and StarThere are approximately eight million Muslims in the United States, double the number of Jews in the U.S. Both Islamic funeral traditions and Jewish funeral traditions are remarkably similar. What do Americans need to know about the different observances of these two religions?

Dr. Ahmad-Rufai Abdullah, a leader of the Islamic Burial Society of North America, has trained hundreds of volunteers to conduct the Islamic Janazah ritual to prepare the deceased for burial. He speaks about Muslim funeral traditions on this episode of A Good Goodbye Radio.

  • The key elements of Islamic funeral and burial traditions
  • What the Janazah process of body preparation involves
  • Who does Muslim body preparations and who performs funerals
  • When funerals and burials are prohibited
  • Mourning traditions and how they vary by sect and culture
  • How to respond to a bereaved member of the Islamic faith

For more details on Islamic burial traditions, you can also read this article in the Yemen Times.

Buddhist Funeral Traditions

Dharma WheelBuddhist funerals incorporate many elements of other faiths’ funerals, such as programs, flowers, ushers, and working with clergy and a funeral home. Buddhist funeral traditions also incorporate many aspects unfamiliar to most non-Buddhist Americans – the Pillow Service, altar items of fruit, food and flowers, and numerous follow-up memorial services.

Rev. Harry Gyokyo Bridge, the resident minister of the Buddhist Church of Oakland, joined host Gail Rubin on A Good Goodbye Radio to discuss Buddhist funeral traditions. Topics include:

  • The hallmarks of Buddhist funerals, both Japanese and American.
  • Specific rituals Americans need to be aware of.
  • How to express condolences to the family of the deceased.
  • Buddhist teachings related to memorial services.
  • Attitudes toward cremation and disposition of remains.

For more information, read this blog post.

Greek Orthodox Funeral Traditions

Greek Orthodox ChristDid you know that my blog post on Greek Orthodox funerals is the most popular post on The Family Plot Blog? People have many questions about this religion.

In this A Good Goodbye Radio interview, Father Conan Gill with St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico talks about his church’s funeral traditions. A few of his eye-opening insights:

  • Greek Orthodox funerals have several separate services – a Trisagion service the night before, usually at a funeral home, a funeral at the church the next day, and burial in a cemetery.
  • Following the services, a Meal of Mercy, also known as a makaria, may take place at church or the home of the deceased.
  • The makaria is the time when eulogies and stories are best shared. The services provide no opportunity for others to speak.
  • At the funeral, the casket is left open during the service. The deceased’s head points to the west, as if they are standing with the congregation facing east.
  • Cremation is not allowed. To have a Greek Orthodox funeral service, the body must be present.

For more information, read this blog post.

A Good Goodbye Award CoverYou can learn about more religious funeral traditions in Gail Rubin’s award-winning book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die.

Another good resource is The Perfect Stranger’s Guide to Funerals and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People’s Religious Ceremonies.

A Good Goodbye