How to Have a Pleasant Graveyard Picnic
Picture a sunny day, maybe it's Autumn when things have cooled off from summer, leaves are changing colour on the trees and (if you're Canadian) you have been making plans for family coming over and Thanksgiving dinner. It's nice to have a quiet day to youreslf amid all the planning, people visiting, phone ringing... why not take make a quick, simple picnic and spread a blanket in the cemetery to eat lunch and read a book?
Cemeteries and graveyards are only as creepy as you make them. In fact, they are well landscaped with history and greenery. They are quiet places - great for bird watching, writing, solitude and picnics. Stop by for a visit, even if you don't have relatives there.
Cemnic - Picnic in a cemetery. Usually thought of as a large, well landscaped place but it could also be a family graveyard in a rural area, anywhere really.
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How to Have a Cemetery Picnic
Pick a Location
Most cemeteries are considered public property so you should have no problem with access - this means you are not trespassing. However, cemeteries may have scheduled hours. The gates may be closed due to the lateness of the day or they may be closed one day a week for maintenance and groundskeeping.
In the cemetery itself, find a place where you can be peaceful, away from traffic and foot traffic. Pick a picture perfect spot, where the grass isn't dry and prickly and the trees aren't dropping twigs or insects upon you.
Bring a Few Things
Bring a blanket to sit on, especially if the ground is damp or freshly mowed. Bring an extra blanket to curl up in if you get chilly. The cemetery tends to have a lot of open area so it can be breezy. Dress for the weather. Bring an umbrella if you might get rained on.
Of course, you need the picnic itself. If you have a whole picnic basket with plates, glasses and cutlery, great. If not, pack all the supplies you will need, don't forget napkins.
Sandwiches are traditional picnic fare but you could pack up anything you like as long as it's won't slop outside of the containers you pack it into. Try to avoid anything which will leave a lot of crumbs. Birds and other critters may eat the crumbs but the groundskeeper may not want to encourage all the various wildlife to come around.
Drinks in bottles which you can re-cap are a good plan. Insects will be attracted to sweet drinks but you can keep them from bothering you if you keep everything sweet contained.
You can get a quick picnic by going to the counter where they have sandwiches and salads at the grocery store, or a bakery, etc. Grab a container of cottage cheese or any other extras you like. If you didn't already pack knives, forks, spoons and napkins you can pick them up there too.
Bring a bag for trash. Usually you can find trash bins at the cemetery, if not, take it with you and find another place to dispose of the trash.
Respect the dead and the sensibilities of anyone who may also drop by to visit.
Don't leave behind trash. Don't drink too much. If you smoke (you probably shouldn't) but don't leave cigarette butts anywhere. Anything and everything you bring with you should also leave with you. The only exception being something you brought for relatives/ ancestors buried there. My brother and I will leave my Grandparents a Tim Horton's coffee when we visit them.
You might bring a laptop to work in the quiet. You might bring a radio to listen to some music. Watch the sound level, you want to keep it respectful. If you bring animals keep them leashed and clean up after them, pick up the poo and don't let them pee on any gravestones.
Don't take or disturb the flowers and decorations left by other families. Some people may have left money even. Resist temptation.
If you're visiting with family and making an occasion of it, bring a camera and take photographs.
If you're visiting family graves take some time to think about them. Talk about them if you're with family - talk to them if you're alone.
As you sit there, or while you walk around, take note of names on the stones. This is your local history. The families who lived in your town, built houses and businesses and had families are all right there. You could find out more about some of those old family names if you have an interest in local history.
Day of the Dead
Likely you have heard about the Mexican Day of the Dead, November 1st and 2nd. Family and friends gather to pray for and remember those who have passed on. In Mexico it is a national holiday.
Private altars are built, honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds. Favourite food and drink of the departed are prepared and brought for visiting the graves with these gifts. Possessions of the dead are also brought and left for them.
Tomb Sweeping Day
The Qing Ming Festival (more commonly known as Tomb Sweeping Day) is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrating the arrival of Spring and remembering ancestors. Families visit grave sites the month following the Lunar New Year and days before the Spring Equinox.
The burning of incense and paper after the grave has been swept and maintained. Family members bow in front of the tombstone with incense in their hands and placing the incense upright in the ground. This is how they pay their respects to the dead.
Specialty shops sell paper versions of material possessions. One can buy paper houses, paper servants, even paper cell phones. It is believed material objects like these will still be needed in the afterlife so these paper versions are brought by the families.
After the paper offerings are burned, the food is divided up between family members. It's traditional to bring a whole roast pig to be offered at the tombs. Other food brought includes whole steamed chicken, white/yellow sugar cakes, oranges and other fruits. Rice wine is poured on the ground for the dead.
This picnic at the cemetery is a happy occasion of remembrance.
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