Saturday, September 24, 2011

Honduran Funeral Customs

I loaned my living room area the other day for a wake the other day for one of my neighbor's sons who was murdered.  Their home was too small to accomdate a large amount of people.  I got first hand experience with some of Honduran beliefs and traditions when it comes to funerals.

First, Hondurans are extremely superstitious.  These superstitions and beliefs are even more engrained in the areas of life and death.

Most wakes in Honduras are held in private homes and not in funeral homes. I am not sure for the reason for this other than the fact that the family stays with the body for the entire time until burial and the fact that a wake is a huge social event involving not just family but friends and neighbors as well.

One thing I noticed is the way they enter the casket into the home and exit the casket from the home.  The casket is always exited from the home feet first.  Hondurans believe that if you remove a casket head first that the deceased will then come back and take all of the people at the wake with them to the other side.  During the wake the casket is also placed so that the sun will cross the face of the deceased to provide them with light and make the deceased happy.  The feet should always face the door so that the spirit is not bound inside the home.

The wake is held all night long and is a huge event.  There is no such thing as a small wake.  Everyone is invited to the wake..there is no formal invitation it is without saying that everyone can come in the neighborhood and family as well.  Food and drinks are served, even alcoholic drinks.  It is custom that family stay the entire night with the casket to keep their loved one company so that they are happy in the process of moving into the spirit world.  Many people think it is dangerous that you will make the spirit unhappy if you sleep during the hours of 3 and 5 am instead of keeping the dead company.  The casket also should have 4 lit candles the entire night without allowing them to burn out.  This will light the way for the spirit into the spirit world and make the spirit happy without upsetting them by the darkness.  They also believe all caskets should have flowers of some sort even if it is wildflowers.

Once the casket is removed feet first from the home to be taken to the cemetary for burial Hondurans believe that the doors should be left wide open so that the spirit of the deceased then follows the casket to the cemetary for the proper burial instead of remaining bound in the home.

When people return from the burial they are then able to sleep and take baths to get rid of hijillo.  People in Honduras are often told not to visit wakes if they have cuts or are ill because of hijillo.  Pregnant women can assist as long as they tape camphor tablets to their belly button thus preventing the hijillo from affecting them and the unborn child.

What is hijillo? It is the process of decomposition of the body and the gas that the body produces.


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