In our diverse society, there are many funeral customs. This blog explains the different cultural protocols of funerals in New Zealand, providing insight into the practices that honour departed loved ones.
Māori – Embracing Tangihanga
The Māori people, with their deep connection to land and spirituality, observe the Tangihanga, a profound mourning process that unfolds over three days. Marae, the heart of Māori communities, hosts the Tangi, welcoming manuhiri (visitors) after a formal welcome. The ritual is a mixture of waiata (songs), shared stories, and kai (food). It is customary to always have someone by the side of the deceased until the final farewell on the third day at the urupā (cemetery), a sacred place.
Samoan – The Fa’a Samoan Way
In Samoan culture, the Fa’a Samoa, also known as “The Samoan Way “, is typically held over three or more days. Services are often held in churches, halls, or homes. The offering of gifts, money, and food shows a sign of respect for the family in mourning. Men commonly wear the ie faitaga paired with a dress shirt, while women opt for the pulu tasi (Samoan dress). This tradition and attire reflect the cultural pride inherent in Samoan funerals.
Tongan – Community Mourning
Tongan funerals involve the entire community in mourning, as families express condolences by giving gifts, mats, and money over several days. The fahu, the eldest daughter of the oldest living generation, receives these gifts, and in return, the family provides food. Tongan funerals, usually held in churches or funeral homes, include hymns, shared stories, and the tradition of wearing ta’ovala, a woven mat symbolizing cultural identity.
Celebrating Diversity in Grief
Funerals in New Zealand have a variety of cultural practices, family customs, and iwi traditions. While each ceremony may differ, the common thread is compassion. Displaying empathy and adhering to the diverse cultural traditions of mourning families becomes an expressive way to demonstrate respect. In embracing the uniqueness of each funeral, we weave a tapestry of unity, understanding, and reverence for the diverse customs that enrich the farewell rituals in our community.