Every culture has unique customs to help honor the dead and grieve those who have passed. While many customs and traditions to honor the dead transcend geographic and cultural boundaries, the following offer fascinating perspectives on how we grieve.

1. Burial beads – South Korea

Burying loved ones in South Korea has increasingly become an impossible expense for many, in large part due to a lack of graveyard space. Cremation has become a more common practice. But rather than leave them as ashes, many turn to “death beads” in a practice that is done more and more. Several different companies will compress the ashes into gem-like beads in different colors, allowing families to create a touching piece to be displayed in the home.

2. Predator burials – East Africa

Some nomadic Maasai people in East Africa believe that dead bodies are harmful to the earth. And since their deity, Enkai, encompasses all things on the planet — earth, sky, and all living beings — they choose to leave their dead outdoors and allow predators to take care of it. They do not believe in an afterlife, and reserve more elaborate burials for chiefs and other significant figures.

3. Turning of the bones – Madagascar

In a ritual known as turning of the bones, or famadihana, the Malagasy people exhume the bodies of their dead every five or seven years. The bodies, which have been wrapped in cloth, are sprayed with wine and perfume and danced with to lively music. It is thought that this practice helps to quicken decomposition, the key step to allowing the spirits of the dead to enter the afterlife.

4. Fantasy coffins – Ghana

In Ghana, coffins have become trendy. Rather than opt for plain wood boxes that don’t capture the spirit of the dead, “fantasy coffins” have become all the rage. These coffins represent the dead’s work or something that was beloved, personalizing the experience.

5. Sky burials – Tibet

Tibetans believe in reincarnation. Once a person has passed away, the body is just an empty vessel with no spirit left inside. Therefore, the dead are brought to body breakers who will cut off the person’s hair, break the body into pieces and roll in roasted barley flour known as tsampa. The body is brought to the top of a mountain where the barley helps to encourage the vultures to go to work.

6. Jazz funeral – New Orleans, U.S.A.

In a city known for its incredible jazz music, it’s no surprise that people in New Orleans choose to incorporate music into funerals. After the service, the deceased’s life is celebrated in a lively procession with dancing and singing. Music in jazz funerals begin in a somber tone, but once the body is buried, it takes on a jovial, upbeat tempo to commemorate the life of the deceased.

7. Strippers – Taiwan

Yep, strippers. In Taiwan, it’s thought that spirits in the afterlife fare better if the funeral is a fun occasion. Therefore, funerals have become quite the party. Large crowds are encouraged. Some funeral planners have even gone so far as to hire strippers for the event. In fact, groups of strippers travel around Taiwan in buses, funeral hopping to entertain mourners and encourage more to attend.

8. Posthumous marriage – France

Though it’s not exactly a funeral tradition, it’s a slightly bizarre custom that only exists in a select few countries, with France being the more popular. France began to allow people to marry individuals who were dead during World War I, mainly for women who lost their loved ones in the war and wanted to pass on their name to their children. Today, though it is less common, anyone can petition the president of France for permission to marry a late fiancĂ©. Ceremonies are conducted by a confirmed member of the state with a picture standing in for the deceased.

9. Viking burial – Scandinavia

Many people think a Viking burial involved warriors being laid out on a dragon ship that was set on fire as it headed out to sea. In reality, this was far too costly of a practice to be performed for every death. Most Vikings were buried on land in large graves dug in the shape of ships and lined with rocks. They were also buried along with personal belongings and food, including their most prized possessions.

10. Fire burials – Bali

According to Hindu tradition, the dead in Bali are interred in a mass grave with others from the same village. As soon as the community feels the grave is full enough to warrant it, previously buried bodies are unearthed, cleaned, and arranged on a parade float that is decorated extravagantly. The float heads through the village to the town square, where it is set on fire and a feast held to commemorate the deceased.

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