Funeral Traditions in the Milwaukee Hmong Community

Here at Krause Funeral Home, we make it a priority to be equipped for meeting the funeral service needs of each and every family in our community. In order to do that, we take the time to learn about the different traditions of the many ethnicities that fill our neighborhoods. Milwaukee and the surrounding areas are incredibly diverse locales!

Funeral traditions in the Milwaukee Hmong community...www.krausefuneralhome.comYou may not have heard this, but Wisconsin has the third largest population of Hmong people in the United States, and Milwaukee has one of the largest Hmong communities in our state. The Hmong came to America from the mountains of China, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Thailand, although they are believed to be the indigenous people of the Yellow River basin in central China.

When Saigon and Laos fell to the Communists in 1975, many Hmong worked and fought alongside American and other anti-Communist forces that came to the area. Because of this they faced enormous persecution and danger in their homeland. Between 1975 and 1990 about 100,000 Hmong fled to this country as political refugees. Our culture is so much more robust because of their traditions, many of which they incorporate into their funeral services.

Funerals are incredibly important to the Hmong. The Hmong believe that when a person dies his soul travels to his birthplace, then on to the afterlife where he is united with his ancestors, and then he is reincarnated – hopefully back into his family of origin. Tradition states that if the funeral isn’t conducted correctly, the soul of the deceased may become lost and be dimmed to wander for eternity. They might also be reincarnated into a different family. So you can imagine how important the service is for the Hmong who still hold these beliefs. This is why we take what we do so seriously.

Some aspects of the Hmong funeral have changed since they came to the United States. One of the biggest changes is that the body is no longer prepared for burial at home, and services are now held at a funeral home. Their observances still remain rich and meaningful in a number of unique ways. Here are just a few:

  • Many Hmong families believe a person will suffer if hard objects are buried with body, so they do not bury their loved one with buttons, zippers, or metal closures on their clothing, and many request that screws and nails be removed from inside coffin.
  • Some Hmong are buried in traditional dress, while others wear western clothing. Often, family members will place additional clothing items in their casket.
  • The ceremony typically lasts three days and includes the burning of incense and money.
  • Music is incredibly important to the services, as the Hmong believe it guarantees safe passage to the afterlife. The traditional Hmong drum is often beat and the Hmong flute known as the “qeej” is played.
  • Because of their belief in reincarnation, loved ones are not to show distress during the funeral, as they believe the focus should be on the rebirth of the soul.
  • For Christian Hmong, the tribute still lasts three days, but church services are held throughout the day instead.

Traditions, faith, and ritual can bring a tremendous amount of comfort and peace during times of pain and loss. We consider it a privilege to join hands with families from all different cultural and religious backgrounds to create the service that shows honor and respect to their loved one and the values and religion that meant so much to them.

What are some ways you have found tradition to be comforting during hard times? Share with us below in the comment section.

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