Posted by Vale
On my way to the crematorium today I passed a family tidying a grave, clearing it after the winter and bringing fresh flowers for Easter.
It reminded me of this description from the diary of Francis Kilvert. At the time of writing he was a curate at Clyro on the Welsh border near to Hay on Wye.
Saturday Easter Eve 16 April 1870
…When I started for Cefn y Blaen only two or three people were in the churchyard with flowers. But now the customary beautiful Easter Eve Idyll had fairly begun and people kept arriving from all parts with flowers to dress the graves. Children were coming from the town and from the neighbouring villages with baskets of flowers and knives to cut holes in the turf. The roads were lively with people coming and going and the churchyard a busy scene with women and a few men moving about among the tombstones and kneeling down beside the green mounds flowering the graves. An evil woman from Hay was dressing a grave…
More and more people kept coming into the churchyard as they finished their day’s work. The sun went down in glory beside the dingle, but still the work of love went on through the twilight and into the dusk until the moon rose full and splendid. The figures continued to move about among the graves and to bend over the green mounds in the calm clear moonlight and warm air of the balmy evening…
When the choir had gone and the lights were out and the church quiet again, as I walked down the Churchyard alone the decked graves had a strange effect in the moonlight and looked as if the people had laid down to sleep for the night out of doors, ready dressed to rise early on Easter morning.
On this blog we’ve sometimes discussed the need for special days – like the Mexican Day of the Dead – where we spend time with the ancestors. Rightly, the general view is that you couldn’t import such an alien custom but this beautiful celebration is native to us and the scenes described were only a little over a hundred years ago. And some families still take time at Easter to dress ’their’ graves.
Are there places out there where this is still a more general tradition and ritual?