Etiquette Guide: Attending a Wake in Singapore

When attending a wake or funeral, it’s important to be aware of the cultural and religious customs to show respect and support to the grieving family. In Singapore, where diverse traditions coexist, understanding the dos and don’ts becomes crucial, especially when attending a Chinese funeral. In this blog post, we will explore some common etiquette guidelines for attending wakes in Singapore, ensuring that you approach these solemn occasions with sensitivity and consideration.

  1. Paying Respect to the Deceased:

Upon arrival at the funeral, visitors are usually led by the bereaved family to pay their respects to the deceased. Traditionally, this involves pausing at an altar in front of the coffin and bowing three times or presenting joss sticks. However, in a multicultural context, many mourning families now accept visitors who do not offer joss sticks. Regardless, bowing or bowing your head with a minute of silence is a fundamental way to show respect.

  1. Spending Time with the Bereaved Family:

Funerals are gatherings where family and friends come together to commemorate the life of the departed. Even if you didn’t know the deceased well, offering compassion and condolences to the family is appropriate. If you did know the deceased, sharing fond memories and positive qualities about them can bring comfort to the family during their time of loss.

  1. Family Visitation:

In the past, Chinese wakes involved all-night vigils by the coffin, and visitors would sometimes engage in activities like playing mahjong with the family to keep themselves occupied. Nowadays, funeral homes provide lock-up security, and families no longer strictly adhere to this practice. Before attending a wake, it’s advisable to contact the family to inquire about visiting hours to ensure you arrive at an appropriate time.

  1. Departing the Funeral:

As visitors leave the funeral, it is customary to receive small red packets containing money or candy and a strand of red thread. These packets symbolize good luck, and it is encouraged to accept them. The money and candy should be spent or consumed, and the red thread should be discarded. Some wakes may provide only crimson threads instead of cash in red packets, but the purpose remains the same.

  1. Appropriate Attire:

When attending a wake, it is respectful to dress in somber colors such as white, black, or dark blue. However, if the deceased is an elderly person who lived a long life and had children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, the atmosphere may be less solemn. Nonetheless, it is still advisable to avoid wearing bright colors as a wake is generally considered a melancholy occasion.

  1. Numbers and Condolence Gifts:

In Chinese tradition, even numbers are associated with good fortune. Wakes typically span an odd number of days, such as 3, 5, or 7, as funerals are not considered auspicious occasions. Condolence gifts, known as “pekkim” or “bai jin,” come in various forms and sizes. It is customary to offer a minimum payment of $30 to the grieving family, though individuals can contribute more based on their financial situation and relationship to the family. These donations help with funeral costs, which can be significant.

  1. Obituary Announcements and Condolence Wreaths:

With the advent of smartphones and social media, the practice of placing death notices in newspapers has diminished in popularity. Many families now informally share news within family chat groups. However, some families still value the traditional process of announcing the death through an obituary as a way to express respect and sadness for the deceased. Digital platforms and internet memorials are also gaining popularity for keeping memories alive. Instead of sending floral wreaths, some families prefer visitors to donate to charities in the name of the deceased as a meaningful way to pay tribute.

Attending a wake in Singapore requires sensitivity and understanding of the customs and traditions associated with the specific culture or religion. By following these etiquette guidelines, you can show your support and respect to the grieving family during their time of loss. Last Journey Funeral Service is committed to upholding these customs and providing compassionate assistance to ensure that each funeral is conducted with dignity and reverence.


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