Saturday, June 26, 2004

How Chaldean Funerals Work

This week, Iraq's events were bloody and sad. I couldn't find the energy to post anything about those events. We all expected these things to happen. I expect the worst will happen until the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people next week on June 30.

Meanwhile, I read the news of two Assyrian sisters who were killed in Basra four days ago. That really halted my appetite to write anything. I probably should write briefly about Chaldean funerals. It's not a pleasant subject, but you need to know how our funerals work.

I'm not sure which funerals are more complicated -- ours or yours. You could decide for yourself after you finish reading this post.

First, we bury our dead people. We don't have cremation or embalming options. I knew about cremation and embalming from watching the American movies and TV shows. In Iraq, we don't worry about the coffin's quality or how much it costs. We use standard and simple wood coffins. I think that's good. What's the point of being buried in a fancy coffin?

Second, we don't keep the dead in a morgue until letters are sent to people inviting them to the funeral. We're casual about our funerals. The dead are buried the same or next day, unless the family decides to bury the person in another city (like the birth city). This doesn't preclude people from attending the funeral. You'll be amazed of how many people show up at the church for the funeral service.

After the burial of the loved one, the family returns home. People who attended the church service would return with the family. Many relatives, neighbors and friends come and pay their respect to the family on this day. Hopefully, there is enough space to seat all those people. I'm talking scores of people.

First thing, you're served a cup of Turkish coffee without sugar. You may be served tea afterward. But, coffee is a must as a start. Then, there is the food. Usually, friends and relatives help provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone. I'm not talking hamburger sandwiches. I'm talking REAL Iraqi meals like Biryani, Roasted Lamb, Kebba and other delicious meals. Let me tell you, our funerals have the best food.

This usually lasts for three days. Most people who show up on the first day will return on the second and third day too. It's always sad for the family members as they have to sit on the same chair for the whole day while trying to weep and show signs of sadness. If not, people would think the family didn't love the deceased one.

Female family members dress in black during the funeral without any makeup. Most of them continue to wear black and no makeup for one year. It's one of these traditions I never followed, and I have no intention to follow in the future. I'm not fond of black clothes.

The family usually has a smaller-scale church service on the 40th day after the burial. This is usually attended by family members, close relatives and friends. Then there is the 1st anniversary which ends this long circle of sadness.

I didn't include many details about our funerals. It's a depressing subject. But, I thought you need to know a bit about it. I hope I didn't bore you.

Tomorrow is another day. I hope it's a better day.

Arabic Word of The Day:

funeral : جنازة - / jannA-za /

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