First Annual “Visit a Cemetery Day”

by M-Gillies

"Vist a Cemetery Day" will take place on October 29, 2011.

With wrought iron fences, granite headstones, monuments and crypts, cemeteries have been shrouded with dark and often macabre symbolism that has garnered the attention of melancholics and incurable romantics, grief-seekers and professional mourners, but the cemetery as a repository for the dead is now being redefined with the first annual “Visit a Cemetery Day” on Saturday, October 29, 2011.

For years, decades and centuries, cemeteries have been the final resting places for the dead and while most people who visit a cemetery are generally there looking or visiting someone specific, whether it be someone close to the heart or marginally tied by blood, the visit can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

While cultural perceptions of death have changed over the years from an inevitable sombre affair to that of a celebration of life, cemeteries have now become a multipurpose facility in which funerals, interment and cremation are only among the few services offered.

Since the construction of bright comforting, climate-controlled mausoleums, the creation of serene urn gardens and the picturesque landscape composed of rolling hills, glacial lakes, ponds, fountains and trees challenging and supplanting the paradigm of the melancholic and macabre ambiance of cemeteries, many people will find a new invigoration when visiting a cemetery.

From the array of architectural monuments, row upon row of varied headstones, cemeteries have long bridged a connection between the living and the dead and provided a linkage to the past that offers satisfaction in reliving the excitement of long ago.

With weather and sometimes eroded tombstones, elaborate mausoleums and sculpted angels and allegorical figures; photographic and even interactive tombstones have given people an archival documentary of the evolution of human history, perceptions and emotions throughout the generations.

While “Visit a Cemetery Day” encourages the recreational activity of visiting a cemetery, whether it be to bring flowers, wreaths or other tributes, taking a quiet walk along the paths, reading a book, photographing tombstones and mausoleums, having a picnic or studying the engravings of tombstones, “Visit a Cemetery Day” isn’t just a day to commemorate the dead, but rather to embrace the celebration of life.

Though cemetery visiting is not an unheard of occurrence, it is however steadily gaining interest among many tourists. To date, the ten most visited cemeteries are:

1. Highgate Cemetery in London, U.K.;

2. Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise in Paris, France;

3. Protestant Cemetery in Rome, Italy;

4. Merry Cemetery in Maramures county, Romania;

5. Zentralfriedhof in Vienna, Austria

6. Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, Chzech Republic;

7. Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York;

8. Forest Lawn Memorial Parks in Los Angeles, California;

9. Saint Louis Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana; and

10. La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina

For those planning on visiting a cemetery, below is a list of things to do when visiting a cemetery:

1. Bring a pen and notebook with you to easily keep track of epitaphs, names, and birth and death dates.

2. Take a camera to capture pictures of beautiful headstones, monuments and sculptures that can be found in a cemetery.

3. Bring a scrub brush, bucket and a jug of water to clean up moss or mud which may be marring a tombstone of an ancestor.

4. Bring a book, sit on the benches and enjoy the silence a cemetery has to offer.

5. Take the kids on a visit through a cemetery. This gives people a chance to teach children to respect and honor a cemetery, where to find ancestors who were buried and gives an opportunity to educate them on family history.

6. Take a walk along the paths and enjoy the picturesque scenery of the cemetery.

7. Partake in gravestone rubbing, with the use of rendering materials such as charcoal, wax, graphite or insticks, place a piece of paper on a gravestone or monument and rub the charcoal, wax or graphite on the paper and view the image that was rendered. Many artists create entire bodies of framed work using this method.

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