Frazer Blog

Cultural Spotlight: Nigerian Funeral Traditions

by | Apr 16, 2018 | Cultural Spotlight, For Families


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 Nigerian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Botswana funeral traditions and Ecuadorian funeral traditions, among others.

Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.

Death and Religious Beliefs

Christianity and Islam are the most common religions of Nigeria. These religions have their own customs and beliefs that are reflected in a family’s funeral traditions. However, they do have some similarities; many Christian and Muslim Nigerians believe God judges the deceased’s soul to determine their afterlife fate. Many also believe in reincarnation and that people come back as members of their mother’s or sister’s family.

Nigerian Funeral Service

A Nigerian funeral service may feel more like a party, as you’ll find a lot of music, singing, and dancing. They believe that the more music and dancing, the better chance the deceased’s soul has at a successful afterlife. The funeral readings depend on the deceased’s religious beliefs, but there’s usually prayers, poetry, and a eulogy. They also sacrifice goats and other animals for food during the celebration.

The funeral attire depends on the deceased’s age and the family’s preferences. Some families choose a color combination — usually two colors — for funeral guests to wear. However, when attending the burial ceremony, everyone should wear dark-colored clothing — especially if it’s a burial for someone young. Traditionally, women wore cotton clothing that was locally tailored and dyed, while men wore wide-sleeved robes with elaborately-designed embroidery.

Burial Traditions

The burial preparations can last anywhere from several days to several weeks. Muslim Nigerians bury the deceased as soon as possible, but Christian Nigerians may wait longer. It’s important to give the deceased a proper burial, or else they may come back to haunt the living.

Muslim Nigerians usually bury the body facing Mecca. While some Nigerians bury people depending on their gender. They bury men facing east so he sees the sunrise; while they bury women facing west so she sees the sunset and can prepare dinner for her husband in her next life. They also cover the body with black earth, because they believe red earth causes skin blemishes in their next life. Some families bury the deceased with significant items, such as weapons to help them with any battles they encounter on their afterlife journey.

Relatives of the deceased organize a second burial filled with celebrations in honor of the deceased. This also helps ensure the deceased will have a successful afterlife and not haunt the living.

1 Comment

  1. Clement

    Hi, I love your post and I am happy to see it. But please can you rate the cost of both Burial/Funeral for someone who has nothing? Or better still, if I got a donations of up to N350k from family and friends, can you please decimate it as to how it should be spent for the two days event? Please am curious to know as I just lost my dad and I got short time to prepare with no cash to start up with. Thanks for your feeds


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