There is much to discuss about the illness, terminal illness, family responsibilities, end of life planning, and the rich religious traditions all important subjects associated with death, we will look at these in depth later, but today we are just focusing on the a funeral in Hanoi as up country where there is little money funerals are more simple.
It is extremely poor taste to ever make jokes about death or illness in Vietnam, so always be respectful and remember that when around Vietnamese people.
Embalming in Vietnam
It is very rare for a body to be embalmed in Vietnam, funerals are held quickly, especially if a child has passed away.
The family holds a wake for the deceased person for 2 to 5 days where friends and family come to show their respects.
Before that, the family must prepare the body:
This involves washing and dressing the body, laying chopsticks between their teeth and inserted into their mouth three coins and a pinch of salt. The body is laid on a grass mat, then wrapped in white fabric, then placed in the coffin.
A Vietnamese saying states: ‘being born from the earth, one must return to the earth’.
Important members of the family of the deceased wear white turbans and tunics made from gauze. They hold a vigil until the body is taken to the burial site.
The whole funeral party escorts the dead to the burial ground; buses take mourners and the body in a convoy.
At the burial site the body is lowered into the grave.
- 3 days after burial the family visits the grave site again.
- 49. For this many days, the family must make an offering of rice to the family alter.
- 100 days later the family celebrates the end of tears.
- 1 year later, the anniversary ceremony is held to honor this date.
- 2 years later, the mourning is officially over, a time after that the family will remove the remains and place them in a more permanent place like a memorial house.
I personally like this set of things to do after the death of a loved one. Often in Western Culture death is swept under the carpet and bereaved ones are expected to recover quickly and just get on with life.
Also the way we deal with a dead person seems so distant compared to really being with the deceased one with the love and respect we had for them in both life and death.
We have so much to learn from these ancient cultures.