Although this topic is rarely discussed, it is nevertheless useful to know as the last thing one wants is to be disrespectful in these kinds of situations. Since over 90 percent of Thai population identify as Buddhist, we will focus on Thai Buddhist funeral customs and traditions.
The bathing ceremony is the first step of the funeral, which happens soon after death. The purpose of the bathing ceremony is to pay respect to the dead. Most who attend the bathing ceremony are family members and close friends. During the ceremony, attendants pour “holy water” onto the hand of the dead while saying their goodbyes.
First thing one should do after arriving at the ceremony is to greet the host then wait at a designated area until one is notified of one’s turn to pay respect.
After the bathing ceremony, the body is placed into the coffin surrounded by flowers and a portrait of the deceased. The Buddhist implication behind the prayer is to demonstrate the fleeting nature of life. During this process, Buddhist monks lead the prayers in honor of the life lost. This part of the process usually lasts 7 nights.
Attendants of the prayer ceremony often bring wreaths to offer their condolences. Wreaths should be directly given to the family members or the host to take care of. Often times, friends or acquaintances who are not able to attend in person will have the wreaths with their names delivered.
When arriving at the ceremony, attendants must first pay respect to Buddha statue by lighting 3 incenses then “Waii-ing” three times while kneeling, each time with hands touching flat on the floor. Then, according to their relations with the deceased, attendants will light 1 incense followed by: If the deceased was
- An elder, Waii once while kneeling without opening the palms
- Around the same age, put hands in Waii gesture without kneeling or while standing
- Younger, simply stand or sit in respectful manner
Food and other commodities are offered to the monks in honor of the deceased at the end of each night.
Cremation ceremony is the last goodbye. In the morning, relatives and family members help carry the coffin and walk around the Chedi thrice before heading to the cremation grounds. A short eulogy is read before the cremation officially begins. Attendants pay respect by putting candle, incense, and flowers in front of the coffin while saying their goodbyes.