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 Maltese funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Mozambican funeral traditions and Tanzanian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
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Religious and Death Beliefs
Catholicism is the most common religion in Malta at 84.4% of the population. For this reason, most people have Catholic afterlife beliefs. Although some people may fear death, it isn’t taboo to talk about it. It’s also important to perform the proper funeral rituals so the deceased’s spirit doesn’t haunt the living.
Maltese Funeral Service
A Maltese funeral is the day after the death, if possible and has detailed funeral rituals to honor the deceased. There is a funeral procession to the cemetery with flowers covering the casket and sometimes they stop traffic during it.
A traditional funeral custom was to put salt of the deceased’s stomach or use a saline solution to help preserve the body. Some families still do this today as a funeral tradition. They also covered the mirrors in their home after a death because they believed mirrors were portals for spirits. Or sometimes they removed them from the wall completely, along with paintings in the same room as the body.
Many private gravesites are inherited from one family generation to the next. If you don’t have a private gravesite, there isn’t a lot of open burial space available. There are common gravesites, but these aren’t permanent; they’re only temporary for about two years. Some people also may choose alternative end-of-life arrangement options, like burial at sea or cremation overseas. But soon, cremation may be legalized in Malta.
Cremation Soon Legal?
Malta wants to legalize cremation services by May 2019. Currently, it is one of only a few European countries that ban cremation. It would provide another end-of-life arrangement option, while also protecting the environment since they’re running out of burial space.