Importance of funeral etiquette
By and large, funerals are solemn occasions. You could be a guest at a funeral of someone you personally know, or attending one to express your sympathy for a friend who has lost a kin. Whichever the case, the main rule is to always be respectful and considerate while you’re there. After all, the last thing you want is to dishonour the deceased and further distress the grieving family.
Besides being mindful of what you say and do, it’s also generally advisable to dress modestly in muted shades. Black, white and grey are the foolproof colours, while light or navy blue are acceptable these days. Flashy jewellery and makeup should be avoided.
Along with these universal rules that apply to all funerals in Singapore, there are specific etiquette for religious funerals as well. Scroll on for an understanding of what they are to help you navigate funeral events with grace and empathy.
What you should and shouldn’t do at Buddhist and Taoists funerals
✔ Paying your respects before the altar is one of the first things you need to do as a guest at a Buddhist or Taoist funeral. This means lighting a joss stick and offering a bow to the deceased, then neatly placing the joss stick into the joss pot. Don’t worry if following this ritual goes against your religious beliefs. You can instead show your respects to the deceased by offering fresh flowers and saying a silent prayer or two at the altar. If the family allows and you’re comfortable with it, you can also step up to the casket and see the deceased for the final time.
At Buddhist and Taoist funerals, guests are encouraged to pay their respects to the deceased by standing before the altar and lighting a joss stick when possible.
X On the funeral day, which is the last day of the wake, the casket will be closed and sealed by the funeral company. Everyone present (including the guests) must not look at the casket, as Buddhists and Taoists believe that the soul of the deceased will not be able to depart in peace if someone was looking. To avoid this, you can look down or turn away from the direction of the casket.
What you should and shouldn’t do at Christian and Catholic funerals
✔ Christian and Catholic funeral services typically involve the singing of hymns and the reading of scriptures and Bible passages. Guests who are neither Christian nor Catholic are welcomed to join in. However, if this is not something you’re comfortable with, it’s perfectly alright to remain quiet and simply observe the ceremony.
It’s always courteous to remain quiet and seated in the midst of a funeral service.
X While it isn’t mandatory for guests to participate in the service, you should avoid disrupting it, such as by leaving mid-way or picking up a call. In the event that you really need to make a move, do so discreetly. In addition, it’s common to find a Bible on the altar. Take note not to fiddle with it or remove it from its position.
In our next Funeral Insider article, we’ll be zooming in on the etiquette for giving condolence money. Do keep an eye out for it!