Burial Celebration culture

Mrs. Alice lived a rather unpleasant life towards the end of her life despite being blessed with up to 7 children most of which are highly successful in their careers. She became a widow during her early 50s and has since been living a lonely life.

All pleas for her to move to the United States by her children who are all based there fell into her deaf ears. She opined that the cultural adjustment might fast-track her demise. She’ll rather die peacefully and all alone here in Nigeria.

Since she would not listen to the voice of reasoning, the children abandoned her for years until the news of her death brought them back. She collapsed all of a sudden and was quickly rushed to the hospital by neighbors who happened to witness the event. She survived the situation but became partially paralyzed. Life became rather unpleasant and all efforts to bring some of the children home to come and take proper care were defeated. None of them refused to show up or send any money until they received the news of her death.

The children did not just come home to bury their mother, they came to celebrate as well. Tens of cows were killed with plenty of food and drinks to go around. Music was flowing from popular musicians as everyone was singing the praises of the children for bringing honor to their mother. Millions in Naira were spent celebrating the death of their mother while just a small percentage of it could probably have kept her alive.

Burial Celebration Culture

My phone rang all of a sudden sometime last week. I looked at the screen and saw that it was my dad calling. I felt a tinge of guilt in my body because it has been a while I paid him a visit despite being just a few miles away from him.

I picked up the call and was about to go on an apology spree when he interrupted and informed me that the burial ceremony of his aunt would be this coming Saturday. That could only mean one thing - money.

I have always made it a habit of reiterating to my dad that I am not one of those that celebrate burials, largely because it does not make any sense to me, and secondly for religious reasons. I am a firm believer in taking care of one's parents while they are still alive and having a minimalist burial for them when they are gone. This is why I make it a duty to always send a token to my father (my mum is late) at the end of every month, no matter how little.

I calmly reminded him of my stand concerning the celebration of deads. Even though I am certain that he was not happy, he pretended as if he understands and the discussion moved to another topic. The event led me into writing this post.

Some parts of Nigeria, including my own Southwestern region, are fond of celebrating their deads even if the deads lived a pauper life while alive. They throw large parties and spend a lot of money. In most cases, it does not matter if the children or families of the deceased have the money to throw around. They go as far as taking interest-based loans from microfinance banks just to fulfill a non-sensible cultural obligation and essentially, in their words, to prove that the dead left behind responsible children.

Apart from my dad informing me about his aunt's burial ceremony, a neighbour of mine that we both sometimes complain bitterly about how austere the economy is, especially the high prices of foodstuff, just finished celebrating the burial of her mother. I once overheard her shouting at this same, now dead, mother about how her problem is too much just because she was sick and throwing up. she categorically told the old woman to die if she wants instead of disturbing her with sicknesses every now and then. I am certain she took a loan to celebrate the burial because I overheard her telling her children that they will suffer because all her salary would be used to offset loans for a while.

By Mogens Engelund - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3713401

The Extremes

In the case of Mrs. Alice, immediately her children heard of her demise, they ordered that the body be deposited in a morgue and sent the necessary funds to cover expenses. The body stayed up to 6 months in the morgue before a date was fixed for the burial. Expensive matching clothes were picked for those that would be attending and on the D-day, undertakers were seen carrying the gold-plated coffin of Mrs in all sorts of acrobatic manners, dancing and entertaining the guests in the process. So much for a woman that died due to inadequate attention.

Make it make sense

I have gotten into several arguments concerning this practice of lavishing money in the name of burial celebrations. What exactly do people derive from such, permit me to call it, total wastage? Several reasons have been given which, up till today, make no sense to me. some of these reasons are:

To show appreciation for a well-spent life

Of course, some deads whose burials are celebrated do, indeed, have a well-spent life. Despite that, I still do not believe that lavishing money to show appreciation is necessary. Who are we showing appreciation to? To the people that come to the feast? To God?

If anyone is feeling generous, I believe there are far less glamorous, discrete ways to go about it. I mean, society is filled with people that can do not know where their next meals will come from. There are orphanage homes all around the country as well.

To show that the deads have children

What difference does it make if a dead person has children or otherwise? Who are they even trying to show off to?

There are more reasons given that I cannot recollect right now. I only remember the 2 above because they are less ridiculous than the rest. In my own assessment, the reasons why people celebrate burials border around so many things which include but are not limited to:

  • Ego satisfaction
  • Show off
  • Greed and corruption
  • Societal pressure

Final Note

Celebration of burials is not limited only to some cultures in Nigeria. It cuts across some other countries in Africa and beyond the shores of the continent as well.

I am of the opinion that deaths and the subsequent burials should humble those of us that are still alive. We should rather give the dead a minimalist burial instead of throwing some lousy, money-wasting parties.

What do you think?

Below is a documentary by BBC on some pallbearers doing their thing somewhere in Ghana. This video went viral but will be dropping it here for those that missed it.



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14 comments
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You have a valid point. It is best to take care of our parents even not only them but everyone around us while they are alive,when they will appriciate it than when they are dead and don't even know if we spent millions on thier buiral

It is not out of place to say that moneies spent for burial cerimony is enjoyed by the living.
Thoughful post you have here @gentleshaid

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Thank you. Burial celebration is totally not about the dead but for the living that just want to party.

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I agree with your way of thinking it would be better to spend the money whilst they are still alive

Spending lavishly on a funeral has always seemed crazy to me

In fact I have told my family when I go I don’t want a funeral let me go out quietly

I found my way here via #dreemport

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Which part of the world are you from and how popular is the practice over there? I am just trying to see how wide the practice is in the world.

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I am from New Zealand but living in the United States
In both places having a funeral is of course most common but the scale of it varies by family and individuals

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The amount of money spent on burials is ridiculous, you would even realize that they didn't give that person anything while they were sick or alive.

Found your post via @dreemport

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I agree with you in saying that we should rather care about and show our appreciation to our loved ones while they are still alive and with us.

I got here via @dreemport

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I also want to conclude that burial ceremony isn't necessary at all. An opportunity to waste money when they could have spent on the dead while they are alive. Some people would not take care of them while they are alive but when they are dead, they start to spend lavishly and even borrow loan just to celebrate them. The dead is gone and would not even know what is happening.
To some, they want to show themselves off but I count it as Nonsense- sorry to say.
@dreemport

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I couldn't agree more with you. For me, there isn't any amount of lavishness that would show how much you appreciate a loved one. I'm grateful for where I come from. We just peacefully lay the deceased to rest.

This is why though I try to understand and respect these practices of others, it doesn't still make sense to me. If the dead could speak, I doubt they'd want all that.

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Funny enough, some people even tell their children to make sure that they throw a big party to celebrate their burial :). I am curious as to which culture you are from in Nigeria though.

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That's sad then. I wouldn't want anyone to spend what they couldn't give me while I was alive. I would prefer they spent on themselves and others that still have a chance at life. Look around you, the people that barely feed.
Btw, I'm from a Zuru in Northeastern Nigeria.

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Why spend millions burying a dead person when you can spend thousands to prevent the person from dieing? I am always so angry whenever I see such things happening. Mrs Alice didn't even know that such amount of money was spent on her burial... What a waste!

I am totally not in support of a lavish burial ceremony. We need to be wise.. Does organizing a lavish burial ceremony bring the dead back to life? Let's ponder on this...

@dreemport directed me to your post

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I believe whatever you want to do for someone do it while the person is alive, but we rather other people's opinion and showing off our wealth.
Too bad

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