Funerals have traditionally been solemn occasions. Changing views, cultural shifts and an increasingly young population have altered funerals from somber events to ostentatious displays that can include elements ranging from liquor, weed and loud music to drones, light shows and scantily clad guests.
It’s part of a trend to celebrate the life of the deceased rather than mourning them. It’s reminiscent of customs in the distant past when individuals wore their best and brightest clothing, hoisted a drink to the dearly departed, and shared memories.
Jamaica is ahead of the curve and has been holding spectacular celebrations of life in which the sky is the limit when it comes to funerals. The celebrations reflect the deceased’s lifestyle, occupation and wealth. For those who want extra tears shed, hired mourners are available, as well as those who will give a tribute to the deceased.
Much of the change has been dictated by the dancehall culture and is full of pomp and circumstance, where men display their masculinity through peacocking – bright colors, patterns and sparkly garments that create a sense of presence, power, and celebrity, and blurs the lines between “male” and “female.” Funeral celebrations are an extension of that need to be seen.
Tommy Thompson, director of Brite Lite Funeral Services and Supplies, credits his company with helping to change the way Jamaicans are marking the passing of loved ones, evolving from teary ceremonies to extravagant presentations. The bling-filled events help reduce the pain of loss and speeds the healing process.
The trend toward lavish funerals hasn’t come without criticism. Many influential individuals are urging families to put their money toward education and creating a better quality of life. Critics note that funding the rites would be better spent in a more restrained nine-nights tradition.
A desire to be recognized and acknowledged lives in everyone and showy funerals are a way to demonstrate an individual’s perceived importance. For other families, glitzy funerals provide the validation they don’t feel that loved ones received during life. Flashy funerals are gaining in popularity and the trend shows no signs of abating.
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