Thinking Outside the Casket: Funeral Traditions from Around the Globe

October 12, 2022

Ghosts and goblins and all kinds of ghoulish characters are gathering for the Day of the Dead, and eventually the Grim Reaper will be here too. When it is your turn, how do you want to go out? Try on these funeral traditions from around the world – from an underwater reef funeral, to hanging coffins, to Taiwanese strippers, there is something for everyone. Beware…some of these traditions we Americans might find strange – just as other cultures might find ours equally as odd.


Reef Memorial – Florida, USA

This is one watery grave that many people dream of resting in. Neptune Memorials in South Florida, where so much of life revolves around the ocean, adds an eco-friendly twist to the ancient practice of burial at sea. The loved one is cremated, and their ashes are mixed with cement; the block is placed on an artificial reef that Neptune has created just offshore. The dearly departed spends eternity surrounded by fish, coral, and other colorful marine life. The concrete also attracts sea life that builds up the reef, so your loved one is performing the ultimate act of environmentalism.

Family and friends can be present for the sinking of the cremains and add a memorial service for a special farewell to someone who spent their life in, on or under the water.

Green Funerals – USA and Worldwide

Why haunt the earth with grisly chemicals and the ghastly remnants of your casket? More and more people who consider themselves friends of the planet are opting for “green” funerals. They choose to be buried without chemical embalming that can pollute the ground and to go out in a biodegradable casket, which is more earth-friendly and kinder to their wallet.

This is not such a radical idea. Chemical embalming is a relatively recent practice; for thousands of years, the dead were buried in a plain wooden box or, if they could not afford a coffin, in a simple cloth shroud.


Space Memorials – USA

This pricey experience is reserved for a select few, but those few have a blast – literally. They have their ashes loaded into a rocket that is then sent into space, where they can live on in eternal orbit.

An American company named Celestis pioneered the out-of-this-world rite in 1997. Its Founders Flight carried the cremains of 24 timeless travelers, including Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry and legendary 1960s philosopher Dr. Timothy Leary. Since then, other companies have come along to create more memorable memorials.

Hanging Coffins – China

The dead stay above the earth in many parts of China, with the practice of hanging coffins. And they are not hung just anywhere but are placed on the sides of mountains and cliffs. Some are hundreds of years old. There are many theories but no clear answer about the reasoning for this practice. Some say the higher a loved one is placed on the mountain, the closer they are to heaven and the greater their piety. Others believe it may simply be a way of keeping the remains away from foraging animals.


New Orleans Jazz Funerals – New Orleans, USA

New Orleans is famous for jazz and for using it to “play out” the dead in an exuberant but heartfelt parade. Musicians play beloved jazz tunes as they lead mourners through the streets. The parades are a fusion of the city’s vibrant cultural heritage that blends West African, French and African American traditions. Death in the Big Easy is not easy, but funeral parades make the transition a little less cruel.

Viking Funeral – The area that became modern-day Denmark, Sweden, and Norway

This ancient funeral combines cremation with burial at sea and takes both to a whole new level. Much like the Egyptian pharaohs, who were buried in their pyramids with all their property and provisions for the afterlife, Vikings had food, alcohol and other possessions placed with their bodies in their ship, which was then set afire and launched to sea. Not every Viking received this honor, which was reserved for the most elite.

Irish Wakes – Ireland

Do not believe the old stereotypes about Irish wakes being raucous, drunken affairs. Some did sink to that level, but a proper Irish wake is a solemn religious event. The traditional ritual begins by stopping all clocks at the time of death and covering mirrors. These are signs of respect and are believed to keep the souls of the living from leaving their bodies too soon. The deceased is then laid on a table for viewing, and a family member stays with it around the clock until burial; some say they are standing guard to keep the devil away until burial. Friends and family visit with the deceased, say their goodbyes and share memories.

Taiwanese Funeral Strippers – Taiwan

Talk about dancing on someone’s grave! In Taiwan, wealthy families give their deceased loved ones an eye-popping, over-the-top party that includes strippers for an all-out celebration that puts the “memory” in “memorial.” Some families make sure the whole town gets an eyeful, hiring neon-lit “electric flower cars” to carry the strippers to the graveside of the deceased.

Does thinking about your funeral or that of a loved one fill you with fear and dread? Let us help you rest in peace until the bell tolls for thee. To arrange a free phone séance for the spirit of your estate plan, contact us at (954) 251-0332 or Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish, Russian and Ghoulish.