Burial Rituals From Around The Globe

Feb 13, 2024

Today, ceremonies in the UK are awash with cultural influences from around the world. To celebrate this, we recently explored the theme of cultural fusion, and how this can be incorporated into ceremonial rituals. We now want to delve further into some of the fascinating rituals practised by other cultures around the world, so that you can have knowledge of some of these practises for your business. 

At The International College of Professional Celebrants, it is important to us that you are kept up to date with changing trends, cultural inclusion, and that you can feel confident offering diverse ceremonies to your customers. 

Water Burials

We recently explored the theme of aqua cremation and how water is used to cremate the body instead of fire. But water also plays an important part in rituals and ceremonies in the broader sense. For example, in some cultures - in particular Nordic countries - burying a body at sea or laying it to face the sea as part of proceedings is commonplace. In the Pacific Islands it is customary to place the body of the deceased in a canoe. In India, the Ganges plays a significant role in burial traditions including a practise of scattering Ganges water on the body before cremation, and across Asia, scattering ashes on water is also common. 

Parades / Processions

In the UK, a ceremonial parade is common practise as a procession prior to the burial. In some cultures, these parades or processions can look quite different. For example, in New Orleans, it is common for people to take to the streets and sing/play jazz. The jazz music begins in a mournful, slower pace and then later picks up into a high tempo celebratory dance. In Varanasi, India, the deceased is covered in vibrant cloths and publicly carried through crowds to the final resting place. In the UK, if the deceased had been a keen biker, they can be escorted by a team of motor bikes to the chapel of rest.

The Coffin

The way a coffin is presented and handled can be different around the world. For example, in Ghana, the term ‘Abebuu adekai’, means a specially designed fantasy coffin that is designed uniquely to each person and reflective of their life. In the UK personalised coffins are now part of the options on offer and can include wrap-around photos of the deceased, their family or their passions.  In one part of the Philippines, the Hanging Coffins of Sagada has become a popular tourist attraction, where coffins are hung on the sides of cliffs to bring them closer to their ancestors. 


Sometimes, items are collected or created to remember the deceased as part of the mourning process. This ritual is practised around the world in different ways. In South Korea, it is not uncommon for people to have the ashes of their loved ones turned into beads that they can then wear. This has been adapted in the UK and using ashes to create precious stones in jewellery for the bereaved to wear is now quite popular. Similarly, in China, it can be customary for people to give gifts to the deceased once a year, such as food, money or household objects.

How Can We Use This Knowledge?

While it was once the case that you’d rarely mix ceremonial traditions, or ever have exposure to rituals beyond your own culture, it is very different in today’s multicultural world. With families mixing from all backgrounds, a fusion of ceremonial rituals can be common. 

As a celebrant, it is wise to be informed on practices around the world, as you never know when you will come across it professionally and will want to be prepared and professional when you do. Seeking how to bring culturally respectful rituals into our ceremonies is what sets us apart from religious or Humanist ceremonies. It is this inclusivity that makes a celebrant-led ceremony so very special.

At ICPC, we ensure that our celebrants are comprehensively trained so that all ceremonies can be delivered with excellence, compassion and understanding. 

You can download our celebrant training brochure here, and browse our range of courses, membership options and more across our website. 

We look forward to meeting you on your journey to becoming an inclusive and creative celebrant.