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 Kazakh funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Georgian funeral traditions and Syrian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Around 70% of Kazakhstan’s population identifies as Muslim. Most Kazakh Muslims identify as non-denominational Muslims — not identifying with a specific Islamic denomination, while others identify as Sunni Muslim. For this reason, their funeral traditions are typically a mixture of Islam traditions and other customs.
Preparation of the Body
When someone dies, their family washes and wraps the body in a white shroud. They also never leave the body alone and openly mourn their loss. They have a yurt, a tent, to place the body in for viewing.
Kazakh Funeral Customs
At a Kazakh funeral service, a mullah leads the ceremony and prayers for funeral guests to participate in. They also serve food and drinks for the funeral attendees.
After the service, there’s a procession to the cemetery for the burial. Muslim Kazakh people have the burial on the same day as the death or as soon as possible. Before the burial, they say prayers for the deceased. Then, they place a flag on the grave with the flag color representing the deceased’s age: red for a young person, black for middle-age, and white for the elderly. After the year-long mourning period, they remove the flag.
On the day of death, the deceased’s favorite horse is shaved of its mane and tail. Sometimes, they attached bundles of the horse’s hair to a pole by the gravesite.
On the one-year anniversary of the death, they slaughter the horse and other livestock for the feast, which usually has hundreds of guests. The bones from the animal sacrifice rest on the deceased’s gravesite. They also have yurts set up and horse races with prizes for the winners.
In addition to the one-year anniversary feast, there are mourning ceremonies on the third, seventh, and fortieth days after the death.