Death and funeral Rituals in Haitian Culture

A funeral in Haiti is an affair that might seem to an outsider, something out of a highly sensationalized plot. It invokes the same trappings of mainstream funerals in other countries, with the church, the body in the casket, the singing and scripture reading, but the differences soon become clear and can be quite an experience for someone who least expects it.


When someone dies in Haiti, burial is the only option. Organ donation and cremation are treated as abominations, as a body needs to be whole in order to be resurrected. And the belief in zombies, the dead-living created from evil intent or avarice, are the only reason, apart from suspected foul-play, why autopsies are sometimes practiced.

If death is gradual, a family gathers to grieve and pray using items of spiritual or religious significance. When death comes, the body remains at home, which is the preferred place for one to pass on, until all the family has gathered. The oldest family member is charged with the planning and another gives the body a final bathing.

The veye, dernier priye and prise de deuil are all mourning practices. The veye involves those done before burial, the dernier priye is 7 days of praying at home to secure passage of the soul to the next world, and, a lot like a funeral, the prise de deuil happens on day 7, marking the official start of the period of mourning.

During a funeral service, the normal somber atmosphere is often interrupted by instances of high drama, like the disruption of the casket, the elaborate human guards of the dead body and the biblically inspired mourners, whose grief often outstrips that of the family members, if volume is to be the gauge. A pedestrian procession to the grave site, where above-ground tombs and exposed skeletal parts abound make it a truly foreign experience to non-Haitians.

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