When it comes to funerals, significant rituals and ceremonies are practiced although they differ from one country to another or from one culture to another. Being one of the oldest civilizations in the world, China practices their old-age funeral customs until now. Part of the Confucian principle and tradition is that the younger members of the family are the ones who are responsible for the coordinating and preparations of the Chines funerals for the elder family member who passed away. Traditional rituals may vary but most of the basic practices are still applicable among all Chinese people. Based on their culture and tradition, the local temples provide help to the family is doing the funeral rites. Among the Chinese funeral etiquette in Singapore are the following:
- The Chinese believed that a full life is up to 80 years old. If a person reached this age and dies a natural death, the death calls for a celebration because the person has no other desires left unfulfilled. Guests should wear white attire with a shade of red color or pink color at the funerals to symbolize happiness for a life well spent. The wake, which lasts for seven days, precedes the funeral. This is the time for the family, relatives, and guests to pay their last respect for the deceased person. Wake for elder family members is usually held at the family home and well-coordinated by younger family members.
- The dress code to wear when attending a funeral wake is an important etiquette to consider. In Singapore, people look at your respect to the deceased person by the clothes or dress you wear. They do not prefer seeing people at the wake wearing red, brown, and yellow because of symbolism and traditions. To be safe with your attire if you plan to attend the wake in Singapore, it is best to wear clothes in muted color and without prints.
- Language and mannerisms should be observed at the wake. It is their funeral etiquette that no family matters should be discussed during the wake. If the cause of death of is unnatural, no one is allowed to ask the family or to inquire about it. What they expect is genuine and sincere condolence from everyone.
- Bringing white flowers of Iris is a common funeral flower acceptable in the Chinese tradition. Last respect is shown at the wake by simply bowing in front of the altar and burn joss sticks for the deceased. You may also say a silent prayer for the soul of the deceased and for the comfort of the family left behind. In Chinese tradition, one of the family members will accompany the guest to the altar if he wishes to burn joss sticks. For guests who do not prefer to burn joss sticks, they can simply bow their head in front of the altar to pay their last respect. Part of their last respect is giving the family a white envelope that contains money in odd number or amount.
- Red strings on the table at the wake, together with plates of peanuts and melon seeds are traditional in every Chinese wake in Singapore. They do it to ward off and avoid bad luck or bad spirit that guests may pick up at the wake. Guests may take one when they leave but the red strings and anything brought from the wake should be disposed of before they reach their home.
- At the funeral ceremony, eulogy and prayers may be said for the deceased person. The family burns joss paper, which is also referred to as spirit paper, to make sure that the soul of the deceased person will have a safe journey to its eternal destination. The joss papers are in shape of miniature houses, cars, televisions and fake money. Commonly, the shapes of the papers burned at the funeral ceremony are the items the deceased person was interested during his or her lifetime.
- During the ceremony, the family distributes red envelopes to guests. The envelopes contain a coin, a candy, and a handkerchief which the guests should consume before they reach home. A red string will also be given to guests, which they can tie on their front doorknobs to keep away any evil spirit that may follow them.
- The funeral procession follows the funeral ceremony. The family may hire a marching band to play loud music that will frighten bad spirits and ghosts. The family, in their mourning clothes or black clothes, should walk behind the band and follow by the vehicle where the coffin is carried. Friends, business associates, co-workers, and other guests complete the funeral procession to the cemetery or crematorium. Based on Chinese tradition, the body of the deceased person is either buried at the grave or cremated at the crematorium.
- The mourning band is worn to show that the family is in mourning period. The band is worn at the left sleeve if the person who died is male and worn on the right sleeve if female. Aside from the black cloth band on the sleeve, the family also wears somber clothes all throughout the mourning period, which lasts for 49 days up to 100 days according to Chinese tradition.
- On Qing Ming or Tomb Sweeping Festival held annually, the family visits the gravesite or columbarium where the coffin or urn is laid.
It may involve a number of traditional funeral rites and rituals when it comes to Chinese funerals. However, observing these etiquettes will not only show your respect to the deceased person but will also let the family know that you are sincerely sending your message of condolences.