Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Funerals in Ghana

I must state from the onset that Ghanaians spend more money on funerals than on weddings. I remember taking a group on tour and from Cape Coast to Kumasi, all along the highway, people clad in black, brown, and burgundy colors could be seen in every town, village and hamlet. My group called Ghana, "The funeral Capital of the world". These are the traditional mourning clothes. There are occasions when we wear white. When someone commits suicide, when someone dies in battle or is shot dead in any way, when someone lives to a ripe old age, we wear white for the funeral. Also when a parent loses a child for the first time, we wear white.

Usually when a person dies, the immediate relatives in the town or village are summoned to a meeting where they are informed of the passing. In modern times, with advent of refrigeration, with the exception of the villages, bodies are deposited in the mortuary if the person died at home, or if in the hospital, that is automatic. An autopsy will be conducted. After that, the family may leave the body in the mortuary for so long as long as they have money to pay for the mortuary fees. In the interim, messages will be sent to all relatives far and near. If there are children and siblings outside the country, they will be informed. A week after the death, the family will gather to celebrate that; this is the time when they will decide on burial arrangements. Family here, is not mother and father. Since I belong to the Akan group, family means people on your mother's side. The body belongs to them.

Depending on where children and siblings are, the burial may take place in a short time or they'll wait for those outside to return to the country. If outside relatives are returning, then it may take a longer time. When the date is set, usually the ancestral family home will be painted with a fresh coat of paint. Everything will be spruced up because visitors will be coming.

Burials normally take place towards the weekend. On the day before the burial, the body will be retrieved from the mortuary and brought to the family house. Special family women who are versed in handling dead bodies will do the bathing and preparation. The body will be laid in state and family members will keep vigil over it. Visitors will come file past it and stay for a period.

With the advent of Christianity, church services have been added. The burial may take place on a Friday or Saturday. The body will be taken to a church where the funeral services will take place. After which it will be interred at one of the cemeteries. Upon return, the family will gather in front of the family house or on a soccer field to hold the funeral celebrations. Here, guests will be served with drinks, music will be played, and people will dance to celebrate the life of the deceased. The will be special tables set aside where people will make financial donations to the family to help defray the cost of the funeral.

On the Sunday, if they are Christians, they will go to church for a thanksgiving and memorial service. After service, the family and visitors will gather at a hall where they will be treated to some tasty meals. At the end of that those who travelled from afar will ask permission to leave.

Forty days later, the family will gather for the forty day celebration. We used to have the ninety day celebration but that went out of style. A year later, we will have the anniversary celebration. One day I may have time to write about funerals, dating and romance.

1 comment:

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