5 Funeral Wake Etiquettes in Singapore

Updated: Sep 6

When attending a funeral wake in Singapore, a common concern is understanding the proper etiquette that’s expected. We ask ourselves questions such as what to wear, how to behave, which topics are potentially taboo, and more. There’s a lot to think about when paying your respects to the recently deceased and speaking with family members who are grieving their loss. In this article, we hope to clear the air on proper funeral wake etiquette – so you can pay respects with sincerity, dignity and confidence.

1) Dress Code for Funeral Wakes When attending a funeral wake, do dress appropriately. Be neat and conservative. Understand that your attire is a mark of respect for the deceased and the bereaving family. Depending on the deceased’s religious beliefs and customs, you may want to avoid certain colours and styles that conflict with their traditions. If you’re unsure of what these traditions are, a safe choice would be clothes that are conservative and have muted colours. To be extra safe, avoid the colours red, yellow and brown – this is especially important at Chinese funerals. 2) Conversations with the Family When approaching the mourning family, be tactful with your language and mannerisms. Avoid talking about family matters, and if the deceased died an unnatural death – please quell your curiosity and do not ask the family about circumstances surrounding the death. Avoid gossiping or discussing this with anyone else at the funeral either. A simple rule of thumb is to simply offer your condolences. Your genuine sincerity and presence will be greatly appreciated. 3) Paying Respects and Joss Sticks To pay your respects, you may bow in front of the altar of the deceased. While bowing, you may offer a quiet prayer, or simply speak a few words in your heart to the deceased. (Asking them to rest in peace, saying who you are etc.) This is considered to be universally acceptable behaviour, regardless of religious beliefs. Some Chinese families may burn joss sticks for their loved ones who have recently parted. If you are accustomed to using joss sticks, a member of the family (most likely one you know) will accompany you to the altar and pass you the joss sticks, allowing you to pay respects to the deceased. If you are a (Example: Christian or Catholic) and do not wish to do any of the above, simply bowing your head with respect for a few seconds will be enough. 4) Condolence Contributions You may offer a cash contribution to help the bereaving family subsidise the cost of holding the funeral wake. In Chinese tradition, this practice is referred to as offering “white gold” or “白金”. You can make your contribution after you are done paying respects to the deceased. Don’t worry about how much money to give, as this is entirely up to you. It depends on how close you are to the bereaving family and you may contribute any amount you feel comfortable giving. (Usually condolence starts from $20SGD depending on how close you are with the bereaving family.) 5) What is the Red String for? In most funeral wakes in Singapore, you’ll see a paper plate or plastic container filled with peanuts, melon seeds, candies and pieces of red threads/strings on every table. If you’ve ever wondered what this piece of string represents, it is believed to ward off any “bad luck” that you may happen to pick up when attending the funeral wake. You may take one, but do remember to let it drop off natural or if it doesn't comes off, dispose it before you enter home.

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