International Handbook of Funeral Customs

International Handbook of Funeral Customs

International Handbook of Funeral Customs

International Handbook of Funeral Customs

Synopsis

This handbook explores the current cultural and religious customs concerning death, burial, and mourning in countries throughout the world, and covers all the major religions. At present there are more than 190 independent countries in the world, and the funeral practices in each are closely related to the culture, history and geography of the country concerned. Matsunami examines the ways people living around the world deal with the death of a loved one, and what kind of post-morten arrangements are made. In doing so, he provides a better understanding of the world's cultures by viewing people's individual and collective behavior when it comes to funeral customs.

Excerpt

Most of us probably think of death as a dreadful thing that we would like to avoid. But it is a reality that we have to face sooner or later. There is a saying that someone else's death may be permissible, but our own death is not possible. In his book La Mort, Vladimir Jankelevitch, a French philosopher, classified death into three categories, namely, the deaths of the first, second and third persons. The death of the first person is "my death," whereas that of the second person is "my acquaintance's death," and the third person's is "other death." "My death" is the most difficult to confront because it means our own end. The death of the third person, on the other hand, is an everyday occurrence, which may not be an immediate concern and is easily forgettable.

The information on the various funeral customs in the world in this book mainly focuses on the death of the second person. In other words, I examined the way people living in different countries deal with the death of an acquaintance and what kind of post-mortem arrangements are made. Although this kind of study may seem somewhat morbid, I believe that one can get a better understanding of the different ways of life through viewing people's individual and collective behavior in funeral customs.

I first became interested in the various funeral customs in the world when I was asked to hold memorial services for those who had died in major plane crashes. In such cases, I hastened to the crash site with the bereaved families to assist in making arrangements to identify the bodies of the victims and in conducting a memorial service for the dead. I did this at the request of the airline companies in the wake of air disasters, including a crash of a JAL plane in the suburbs of New Delhi, India, in June 1972, a crash at Shermechievo International Airport in Moscow in December of the same year, and an accident . . .

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