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 Chilean funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about South Korean funeral traditions and Finnish funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Chilean Religious Beliefs
According to the 2012 census, the most common Chilean religion is Catholic at 66.7% of the population. The next most common religion is Protestant at 18.2% of the population.
The 2014 Pew Research survey also found that most Catholics and Protestants in Latin American countries believe in God. Specifically, 92% of Chileans believe in God. However, in terms of the afterlife, most believe in heaven, but only 56% of Chileans believe in hell.
Chilean Funeral Service
Since most Chileans are Catholic, a Chilean funeral service typically follows Catholic traditions. There is usually a wake and a church funeral service afterward. And, similar to our traditions, there is a funeral procession with a hearse to the cemetery.
Burial or Cremation
Traditionally, burial was the most common funeral arrangement, but now cremation also is common. For burial, people mostly choose a traditional burial service, but some also choose direct burial. And for cremation, families can choose to bury, keep, or scatter their loved one’s ashes.
On a loved one’s death anniversary, Catholic Chilean families have a mass to honor the deceased. In the Chilean culture, family is a major, central part of their everyday life. So it makes sense that they have special remembrance traditions to honor their loved ones.
All Saints’ Day
All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day, is a Christian festival on November 1st to celebrate the saints. On this day, many Chilean families visit their loved one’s gravesites and bring flowers to honor their memory. They also may light candles to honor and remember the dead.
The Cueca is a dance performed at special events and holidays, such as funerals. While weddings and other occasions have a happy dance version, there is a sad funeral dance version. There also are different versions of the dance depending on what area of Chile you’re in. Some versions have singing along with the music, while some versions are only instrumental.
During the performance, dancers wear traditional Chilean clothes. The women wear blue, white, red, or black dresses, while the men wear hats, ponchos, and riding pants and boots.