In the Indonesian province of Sulawesi, families have a bizarre custom.

They continue caring for and grooming their dead relatives long after they’ve passed away.

Besides washing and grooming the deceased family members, the villagers also buy new clothes for the dead.

This is an ancient ritual called Ma’nene, or the Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses.

The practice dates back at least a thousand years, and possibly much longer.

The bodies are preserved because family members treat corpses with formaldehyde for days after someone dies.

Furthermore, in the aftermath of someone dying, they are treated as if they are merely sick.

Family members continue bringing them food, and generally treating them as if they are still alive.

This unusual practice likely evolved as a way to allow grief to taper off gradually.

Instead of a shocking loss of a beloved relative, people can more slowly process the death.

Sometimes, villagers wait longer than a year before burying a loved one.

In that time, old friends and relatives can continue visiting the deceased person.

While this custom may seem bizarre to Westerners, our practice of quickly burying the dead would be unthinkable to them.

It’s possible that the Indonesian villagers might just be on to something.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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