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Chinatown's Cathay Band in San Francisco has a long history playing funerals.

Funeral traditions are an important piece of the grieving and mourning process. They give us a familiar and rehearsed way to deal with the loss of loved one. Yet, funeral traditions are in steep decline as more and more people decide to get creative and have fun rather than mourn.

Against this trend stands the Green Street Mortuary in San Francisco, where Chinese-American funeral processions are as lively as those in New Orleans. Led by a dedicated band at the funeral home, 300 parades a year stop traffic in Chinatown.

“This is so people in Chinatown can see who passed away — they will step out and see who it is passing by,” mortuary general manager Bill Steine told the Associated Press.

The Green Street mortuary’s funerals and the band embody [San Francisco’s] blend of [Chinese and European] influences. The parade and the elaborate service respect the Chinese regard for funerals as significant life-passage rituals that can often be more expensive that weddings, with the “deluxe package” running just under $10,000 without the casket.

But the music, played by 10 all-white band members, mixes Christian hymns, Chinese tunes, and anything else that strikes the family’s fancy.

Funerals don’t need to be somber, though they ought to deal frankly with the subject at hand. The Green Street Mortuary Band has maintained an important tradition of making the community remember and mourn the dead.

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2 thoughts on “San Francisco Funeral Home Keeps Traditions Alive

  1. My family followed a funeral parade lead by the Green Street band all the way to the Embarcadero. Great memory! I want a funeral like that!

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