If you've never been to a Chinese funeral, you may be wondering what to expect. While each family has its own traditions, there are many practices that tend to be standard in this community. Here are some tips to help you as you prepare for your first Asian funeral.
1. Consider coming to the visitation
Many Chinese families have a visitation period for a few days before the funeral. This may happen at the funeral home or at the family's home. During this time, family and friends gather with their deceased loved one to honor their memory and share their grief with others. This is very similar to an Irish wake or to the shiva that happens after a Jewish funeral.
2. Choose flowers carefully
If you decide to send flowers, choose them carefully. You may want to work with a florist who has experience with Asian funerals. If possible, try to opt for white or yellow flowers. They are the traditional mourning colors for Chinese families.
Women can wear flowers in their hair, and the color typically represents their relationship with the deceased. Wives, daughters and daughters-in-law typically wear white flowers. Grandchildren wear green while great-grandchildren wear blue, and great-great-grandchildren wear red.
3. Don't wear red
Red is considered to be a happy color in Chinese culture, and by extension, it's typically avoided at Chinese funerals. The exception, however, is for someone who has lived a long life. As you can see above, someone with great-great-grandchildren may have children with red flowers in their hair at the funeral. Additionally, someone who lived past 80 can have red lining in their coffin or wear red clothes.
Guests, however, should typically not wear red to the funeral. The traditional colors are white or neutral colors with no jewelry. However, many Chinese families who have lived in Australia for a long time may have embraced the western tradition of wearing black so that's typically a polite option as well.
4. Offer cash in odd numbers.
Bringing cash to a funeral is a custom all over the world. People often give cash to grievers to help them through the financial aspects of the loss. In many world cultures, people buried some cash with their loved ones to help them out in the underworld.
You can feel free to give the family cash at an Asian funeral, but keep in mind that traditionally, it should be in an odd number. Give $101, instead of $100, for example.
5. Know when to turn your back
You may be expected to turn your back at certain times. In particular, when the casket is being closed or put into the ground, you should turn your back. Just watch everyone else and don't be afraid to ask a quiet question as needed.
For more information on Asian funerals, contact a professional near you.
Funerals can bring forth such a range of emotions: melancholy, grief, regret, relief and nostalgia. As an assistant at a funeral parlour, I am privileged to help people with organising their loved one’s final journey. I have learnt that a good funeral parlour can make the occasion truly commemorative. When I attend funerals for friends, I am saddened to see that so many ceremonies are traditional and joyless. I later find out that the family members simply weren’t aware of options such as a graveside memorial service. I love the fact that one of my tasks involves showing family members various venues and demonstrating what can be done. In this humble little blog, I hope to make it my mission to share some of the ideas – big and small – from the best funerals I have seen. Perhaps it will give you some inspiration at a difficult time. Bless.