Funerals in Ghana
Funerals in Ghana just like any other place is a way of bidding farewell to the dead. In Ghanaian settings the dead is treated with lots of respect and honor. The main funeral colors are black or red. However if the person died at a ripe age, white worn by the attending individuals. In other instances when a person must have lost his life in a battle or committed suicide, the traditional mourning cloth is white.
Religion, civilization and technology have affected the way a typical funeral is organized in Ghana. Different religions across the country have had a huge impact on the funeral formats. For instance most churches in Ghana have recently banned the keeping of wake over the dead body. This was an even which used to take place from the night of the day before burial till the dawn of the burial day. The use of the mortuary has also helped in the prolonging of the funeral date until a time that the family is ready or settled. Although funerals are organized differently in different clans and tribes, there are certain common features that cut across all funerals in Ghana.
Funerals are considered many many in Ghana as a way of honoring the dead. Most families therefore put into the ceremony so much effort and money. Some families contact funeral homes which are slowing coming up to take charge of the whole funeral.
When the death of a person happens, the family member closest to the deceased’s home are informed of the incident. Since this is an unfortunate news , the incident is announced with the use of proverbs and wise sayings. Small informal meetings are held by the elders in the family to discuss the dead person and perhaps his legacy and family.
Arrangements are then made to deposit the body at the nearest available morgue if the death took place at home. If the person dies at a hospital then the hospital will transfer the body to the mortuary themselves and inform the affected family all at the cost of the family. An autopsy is conducted by the hospital to ascertain the cause of death. A certain period will be allowed to elapse in order to enable the bad news filter into the family circles. There will be a first meeting to formally announce the death of the individual and to discuss the funeral proper. If a conclusive arrangement is not settled on at the meeting, a new date is set up to continue with the meeting for the same purpose.
When a date, venue and other vital funeral arrangements are agreed on, it is communicated to all friends and family members as well as the general public. Usually aside the word of mouth broadcast, there are posters put up in the relevant places to communicated the death of the person. In other places a gong-gong beater is made to go round at dawn to broadcast this information.
Burials normally take place on weekends, beginning from Friday and ending it on Sunday. More often than not, depending on the social status of the deceased, the deceased’s house is put in shape all in preparation for the up-coming event.
The body will be washed and dressed by elder women in the family who are skilled in this art. It is then laid in the open in a casket for friends, well wishers and sympathizers to file past the dead. This is a very sorrowful event filled with tears, mourning , singing and drumming. This used to be done at the wake keeping night on Fridays. However because wake keeping is becoming a thing of the past, such an event takes place on a Saturday dawn or morning.
Most Ghanaian funerals are organized with the involvement of the church. Therefore, after the filing past at the home, the body is taken to the church for the funeral ceremony. Attendance to the funeral depends on several factors. These include the individual’s involvement in church activities, the individuals attendance to other people’s occasions, his/her age, social status, number of children, his/her popularity etc .At the church, members are allowed to read tributes. There is a last chance for family and friends to file past the deceased in the church. Internment is then done at the churches cemetery or at the cemetery where the burial will take place.
After the internment and burial, the people return to the funeral grounds or the family house where tents would have been put up and seats provided. Special tables will be set to accept gifts and donations from loved ones to help the family members defray the cost incurred. During this period the weary and tired well-wishers will be served with food and drinks and also provided with some water to wash their hands.
On the Sunday, there is some sort of thanks-giving by the family members. Traditionally the family member would go round from household to household thanking the their neighbors for the attendance. For the Christians, there is usually a thanksgiving service organized by the church of the deceased.
After the thanksgiving service, the will of the deceased is read. Family members disperse and leave for their various homes afterwards. They come together 40 days later to celebrate the ‘Forty Days’ celebration of the dead.
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