Traditional funerals in Vietnam are lengthy affairs, often lasting for days with elaborate rituals taking place.
Whilst there are different ethnic groups within Vietnam in which there are different customs that are followed, it is quite normal that the Vietnamese people share funeral and burial practice beliefs.
An altar is created, at which the family of the deceased often put a portrait of the person who has passed away and they usually provide offerings, often food, so that their deceased loved one is fully prepared to journey to the afterlife with all that they might need.
Upon their death, the deceased person was, in the past, often kept at home for a long period that could range from three days up to a month.
The soul of a deceased person is respected and highly regarded in Vietnam and so the Vietnamese prepare for their journey to the afterlife seriously in order to avoid the deceased person’s ghost remaining on earth and haunting or causing harm to the deceased person’s family.
Ghosts are taken seriously in Vietnam and whilst the family of the deceased person are concerned their spirit might remain with them, essentially the rituals that are carried out are mostly to ensure that their deceased loved one can journey on to the afterlife peacefully.
There is a specific way of preparing their deceased loved one in traditional Vietnam and the rituals that take place can be complex and seen as unusual in different cultures.
The deceased family member is dressed in white traditionally and three coins and rice is placed in their mouth with a chopstick positioned between their teeth. Then a knife is placed on top of their stomach because it is believed this will protect them from evil spirts.
A deceased person’s fingernails and toenails are cut and kept in a package and perhaps most unusual of all, the deceased person’s coffin is guarded so that animals such as cats and dogs are stopped from jumping over their coffin because it is believed that if they do the body of the deceased person will be brought back to life.
Incense is burnt and white flowers, money and food are brought to the deceased person during the time of mourning, in which family and friends visit the house at which the deceased person lays in order for them to pay their respects.
While family members wear white clothing during the period of mourning, non-family members who are grieving for the loss of the deceased person wears black.
Once the mourning period has ended, the deceased person is placed in a coffin before travelling to their final resting place.
The procession often takes place at sunrise and is led by the family of the deceased person. A marching band is not uncommon at the grave site of the deceased person and the music the band plays is dependent upon the circumstances of the deceased persons death.
If the recently deceased person lived a long and full life, the music will be more joyful, however, if the death of the person was premature or under negative circumstances, the music played will be sombre.
In modern times, whilst Vietnamese funerals still follow tradition, funerals are more simplistic, however, much money can be sent on a funeral in order to validate the importance and value of the deceased loved one.
It can be that Vietnamese families put themselves into debt in order to ensure that the best possible funeral for their deceased loved one is arranged because it is the last gesture they can provide to create a lasting good impression.
Family members will assemble around their deceased loved one in traditional clothing to pray and pay their respects but the mourning period and wake will last for a shorter period and are more likely to last days rather than weeks in modern times now.
Once the wake is complete, an elaborate funeral procession often takes place so that the deceased person reaches their final place of rest and can be buried.
In Vietnam, death is believed to be celebrated as a new beginning of the deceased person to a better world, the afterlife. This is the reason that many funeral services will include entertainment that is hired by the families of the deceased person so that they can celebrate their deceased loved one in the way in which they wish to remember them.
After that, the Vietnamese traditionally celebrate their loved one’s death every year, at an annual event, to both honour and remember their lost loved one whilst remembering and celebrating their life.