Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Angolan funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Yanomami tribe funeral traditions and Austrian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
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Angolan Religious and Death Beliefs
Christianity is the dominant religion in Angola. More specifically, Roman Catholics make up about half of Angola’s population.
Many Angolans believe that life continues after death but in a spiritual form. There’s also a common fear that restless spirits will haunt the living. They believe many of the spirits are those who died during battle and didn’t have a proper burial.
Angolan Funeral Service and Burial
An Angolan funeral service typically follows Christian traditions since most of the population identify with this religion. After the funeral, they may have a funeral meal at the deceased’s house or a family member’s house.
When they leave the cemetery after the burial, they wipe off their shoes before entering their home. Some mourners put aloe plant pieces in water to keep away evil spirits. Christian Angolans also may sprinkle holy water.
For a long time, burial practices weren’t always easy to complete. From 1975 to 2002, the Angolan Civil War made it difficult to plan funerals and proper burials due to the lack of time and resources. Those who died in the war often were left unburied, which brought about the fear of their spirits haunting the living.
Angolans believe that mourning rituals are crucial for helping the deceased’s spirit find peace. These rituals can occur long after the funeral and burial and may include elaborate and expensive celebrations to honor the deceased.
During this time, mourners wear black, may stay in their home and not socialize, won’t talk or laugh loudly, and some even shave their hair to express their grief and symbolize death and new life as a spirit. Widows typically mourn for six months to a year, while children who lost a parent typically mourn for three months. After this mourning period, most people stop wearing black clothing.
A few days or weeks after the funeral, the family may have a ceremony to honor the deceased becoming an ancestor.