What People Around the World Mean When They Say They’re Happy

Even though she is still healthy and lively, Mrs. Xie has already prepared the clothes she will be buried in.

An 86-year-old Chinese woman who lives in Dongshan, a city on China’s southeastern coast, Xie has an active life, cooking for friends at the local Buddhist temple and joining in the chants there. Yet she has already bought the pants, shirt, shoes, earrings and purse she will wear after she dies, as well as an embroidered yellow pillow for her head. She had a portrait taken that will be displayed at her funeral. And she wrapped the items neatly in a cardboard box to await her death.

For many people in the West, picking out an outfit for your own funeral might seem sad or macabre. But Xie and her friends see it as a cause for reassurance, even celebration.

The video below, in which Xie shows off her burial clothes to her friends and a visiting researcher, Becky Hsu, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgetown, makes the scene feel almost like a party. Xie’s friends laugh as she shows off her outfit, congratulate her on getting a deal on her shoes, and scold her for paying too much for fancy earrings.

“It’s a happy thing,” another Chinese woman told Hsu about preparing burial clothes. “Everybody does it. I’ve had mine for more than 10 years!”

Read more about what it means to be happy from The Washington Post’s Ana Swanson.