A Blog to help all those moving to hectic Hanoi, wanting to learn about the culture in Vietnam or simply interested in the opinions of an adventurous expatriate teenager!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Four funerals and a funeral...

When your Vietnamese neighbor loses a family member you will undoubtedly know by the sounds of the shrill wailing from the mourning relatives. There will later be a procession in the streets where family members are adorned with headbands of different colors (a different color for each different generation). One glance will tell you just how many generations of family are present if there's many they've obviously been drinking a lot of milk. People are not going to find this joke funny but it is - people in Vietnam think milk cures everything. 

Before the person has actually died the whole family must gather around their bed in silence and one member will lean in to hear the persons last words. The daughters and sons of the person do not accept the death and they place the body on a mat on the floor with a chopstick between the teeth in order to bring the soul back to life. Then the shirt is waved like a flag whilst the relatives sing for the soul to return to the body. After this the body is washed and cleansed, wrapped in white cloth and placed into a coffin amongst rice, gold and money - I suppose this is only for the rich. 

The colors of the flowers are also important and white flowers are the symbol of death especially the white lotus which symbolizes complete purification. 

The body is then buried - anywhere will do in the countryside. 90 days of mourning takes place where people wear special clothes and in the past certain things were not allowed to happen during this period of time such as marriage. 

Three years after the burial the body is dug up again and "cleansed". This involves washing down the bones with pure water, herb infused water and flower infused water. I don't know about you but I wouldn't really want to have to say hello to my dead parent or grandparents skeleton again...
Then the bones are rearranged back into order - they must pay a lot of attention in biology and the skeleton is placed back inside the coffin and reburied. This is actually quite a big issue in the city as every day there are people down at the grave yards digging up bones I suppose.

In Vietnam there are a lot of wandering souls from the war of people whose bodies were not put to rest and cannot be prayed to. 

If you have no family then your photograph gets taken to the local pagoda for the general public to pray for you. 

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