Why Do We Bury the Dead? Traditions & Practical Reasons

Published March 1, 2021
Why do we bury the dead

Burying the dead can be part of a traditional, cultural, and/or religious ritual. If you've ever wondered why do we bury the dead, there are many reasons that have kept this practice going for so long.

Why Do We Bury the Dead?

Why it may be important to bury the dead:

  • Traditional and cultural practices
  • Keep decomposition out of sight
  • Block decomposition related odors from becoming overwhelming
  • Allow for a place to visit and honor the deceased individual
  • Prevent animals from consuming human remains
  • A ritual that offers the deceased respect and dignity and also honors their life
  • Reconnection to the earth
  • Concerned with after life

Why Did We Start Burying the Dead?

Burying the dead was first observed with Neanderthals, although scientists aren't sure if they were concerned with the afterlife, or were doing so for sanitary purposes. Others argue that burying the dead is associated with the grieving process, and that this behavior can also be observed in elephants and chimpanzees. This would mean that burying the dead isn't a uniquely human behavior, and animals with complex emotions may be driven to do so as well. Although there is no clear-cut answer as to why burials began, burying the dead seems to be important to those who experience grief.

Why Do We Bury Our Dead 6 Feet Under?

Burying the dead six feet under was mandatory as a response to the Bubonic plague outbreak in 1665 in England. The thought was doing so would help prevent the spread of the infection.

Why Do We Bury the Dead in Coffins?

Coffins are used in some burial practices:

  • To prevent the dead from rising (a belief in some religions and cultures)
  • To lay the dead to rest in a peaceful and comfortable setting
  • To prevent animals from disturbing the body

Religious and Cultural Burial Practices Around the World

Burial practices can be observed in different cultures and religions throughout the world.

Burial and the Bible

The Bible mentions burial many times, refers to burial sites, and discusses burial customs.

Why Do We Bury the Dead Catholic?

Burying deceased loved ones in Catholocism is an important aspect of the mourning process, however, the Catholic church does allow for cremation as well. In Catholocism, it is believed that those buried will eventually be resurrected and reconnected to their soul in heaven.

Christian Tradition of Burial

Christian burial traditions contain many rituals which help prepare the deceased individual's body for their journey to heaven.

Jewish Burial Tradition

The Jewish faith holds many symbolic burial rituals that are followed according to which denomination of Judaism is practiced.

Muslim Burial Practices

Some Muslim burial traditions include burying the deceased very shortly after their passing, as well as using shrouds to transport the body.

Chinese Tradition

Chinese burial customs depend on several factors including age, status, and cause of death.

Albanian Burial Rituals

Albanian funeral traditions have shifted over time; however, cremation is still typically not practiced when someone passes away. Instead, specific burial and funeral rituals take place.

Burial Rituals in Africa

Throughout Africa, one common belief that some share is that having a proper burial can prevent the deceased individual from rejoining those in the living world and creating chaos.

Navajo Burials

Some Navajo burial traditions and customs are practiced to prevent the deceased individual from coming back to the living world.

Benefits of Burying the Dead

Burying the dead can offer those in mourning an opportunity to begin processing their grief in a ritualistic way that allows for some structure during a very difficult and painful time. It also protects those in mourning from witnessing decomposition, which some may find disturbing.

Why Do We Bury Our Dead?

Burying deceased individuals can serve practical, religious, and ritualistic purposes.

Why Do We Bury the Dead? Traditions & Practical Reasons