Ghanaians love to celebrate. Weddings, christenings, birthdays, funerals—doesn’t matter. It’s a celebration. And yes, you read that correctly. It includes funerals, which are usually the loudest, longest and liveliest of them all.
You’ve heard the term “wedding crasher” before—popularized by Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in the film of the same name, it is the idea of strangers dropping in on open-food, open-bar wedding receptions because there are so many guests coming together anyway that nobody will notice an extra few faces. In Ghana, that term applies just as much, if not more so, to funerals. This is especially popular among students, who will always keep their eyes open for free food and drinks.
For most people in the world, death is something to be feared and funerals have an eerie somberness about them. Ghanaians take a different approach, however. Rather than mourning the loss of someone, they try to festively celebrate his or her life. Rich or poor, families invest a huge sum of money into sending their departed loved ones off appropriately. Just about everyone is invited to the weekend- or week-long extravaganza, sometimes not even mattering if the guest knew the deceased or not, and coffins can often times resemble themed chambers (think soccer star getting buried in a huge soccer ball casket).
Forget weddings, for Ghanaians, the funeral is likely the biggest single expenditure they will ever have, and how grand and successful a funeral is can influence a family’s social status. As such, guests are typically expected to make a donation to help cover the extravagant costs, though many do not.
If you’re lucky enough to get invited to a funeral here, don’t try to think of any excuses to get out of it. Go, and you may find it was the most fun you had in Ghana!