Celebrating Life Customs around the World
From Baby Showers to Funerals [3 volumes]
by Victoria Williams
November 2016, 1247pp, 7x10
3 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3658-9
$339, £261, 295€, A465
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3659-6
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From religious rites of passage to cultural traditions, all ethnicities have their own time-honored celebrations and rituals.

This book documents hundreds of customs and traditions practiced in countries outside of the United States, showcasing the diversity of birth, coming-of-age, and death celebrations worldwide.

From the beginning of our lives to the end, all of humanity celebrates life’s milestones through traditions and unique customs. In the United States, we have specific events like baby showers, rites of passage such as Bat and Bar Mitzvahs and “sweet 16” birthday parties, and sober end-of-life traditions like obituaries and funeral services that honor those who have died. But what kinds of customs and traditions are practiced in other countries? How do people in other cultures welcome babies, prepare to enter into adulthood, and commemorate the end of the lives of loved ones?

This three-volume encyclopedia covers more than 300 birth, life, and death customs, with the books’ content organized chronologically by life stage. Volume 1 focuses on birth and childhood customs, Volume 2 documents adolescent and early-adulthood customs, and Volume 3 looks at aging and death customs. The entries in the first volume examine pre-birth traditions, such as baby showers and other gift-giving events, and post-birth customs, such as naming ceremonies, child-rearing practices, and traditions performed to ward off evil or promote good health. The second volume contains information about rites of passage as children become adults, including indigenous initiations, marriage customs, and religious ceremonies. The final volume concludes with coverage on customs associated with aging and death, such as retirement celebrations, elaborate funeral processions, and the creation of fantasy coffins. The set features beautiful color inserts that illustrate examples of celebrations and ceremonies and includes an appendix of excerpts from primary documents that include legislation on government-accepted names, wedding vows, and maternity/paternity leave regulations.


  • Examines cultural events in the general categories of birth and childhood events, teen and early adulthood milestones, and aging and death customs
  • Offers primary and cultural document excerpts that are useful for the purposes of meeting Common Core standards
  • Includes color inserts that help bring the text to life
  • Features sidebars that present fun facts, interesting anecdotes, and recipes that are often used to celebrate various life-cycle customs in different countries
  • Provides information ideal for students studying geography, global studies, anthropology, and world cultures
Victoria Williams, PhD, is an independent writer and researcher living in London, England. She is author of ABC-CLIO's Weird Sports and Wacky Games Around the World: From Buzkashi to Zorbing and has written on a variety of subjects, including Hollywood film (for ABC-CLIO's Movies in American History: An Encyclopedia), human sacrifice and Mesoamerican mythology (for ABC-CLIO's Conflict in the Early Americas), British folk customs (for ABC-CLIO's They Do What? A Cultural Encyclopedia of Extraordinary and Exotic Customs from Around the World), and other topics. Williams wrote her doctoral thesis (King's College, London) on European fairy tales in 19th-century British art and literature and on film, with special reference to the Brothers Grimm.


Best Reference Titles of 2016, Social Science—Library Journal, March 2, 2017


"The narrative is academic but readable. The references at the end of each entry are extremely useful and easily accessible to the general reader."—Booklist, April 24, 2017

"A useful feature is the placement of individual practices as either international in occurrence or limited to a specific nation, continent, or religious tradition. Indexed by the name of the custom, geographic region or country, and ethnic group, the work best serves public libraries and undergraduate reference collections. Summing Up: Recommended. High school through undergraduate students; general readers."—Choice, May 1, 2017

"The tone is scholarly, although the writing is accessible to nonacademic readers. The bright cover and inset section of color photos in each volume will attract browsers. The comprehensive index as well as the “see-also” and further reading listings at the end of each article will be helpful to those seeking deeper information on a specific topic. . . . VERDICT Readers curious about the background of such customs as consuming a placenta after delivery, the tooth fairy, courtship whistling in Mexico, and fantasy coffins from Ghana will all have their basic questions answered. An ideal addition for all public libraries."—Library Journal, Starred Review, May 10, 2017
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