Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Picnic in the Cemetery

A few Sundays back, my partner and I tried to attend an event I read about in our local paper, and desperately wanted to attend. An over 100 year old cemetery near a small rural town was having a fundraiser, and said fundraiser was going to be a Memorial Day Picnic-- in said cemetery.

Unbeknown to me, picnicking in a cemetery was apparently very popular in Victorian times. Research on this topic is few and far between, but as this article by Margaret Spencer suggests, the custom began in Victorian times, when architects moved away from the more cozy, dismal churchyards of yesterday and began designing lush, flowing rural parks as graveyards. When loved ones would come to tend to the monuments of the departed, they would come prepared for a full day of grave-tending; complete with gardening tools, flowers and other greenery-- and food to last them for the excursion.

I know many people who would balk at the idea of a cemetery picnic, and find something disturbed or unnatural about it. But I love the idea. Never do I enter a graveyard and is the experience lost on me. Of walking among the stones of those gone, and seeing what they have left behind to memory; what lasts, and what ultimately cannot.

Toward the end of our hour long drive, we managed to get lost and pass the cemetery several times. By the time we found the Evergreen Lawn Cemetery in Akron, New York, the fundraiser was over as they had sold out of all food. I gave them a small donation, and one of the Boy Scouts who had been serving the food offered us two sodas.

I walked around for a bit, taking pictures of anything that struck my eye or what I thought had the potential to. I find few things as calming, as perspective-giving as a walk through the gravestones. We ended up stopping at other cemeteries along our way home, which I will save for posts on other days.

Here is the Flickr album I created for my attempt at attending the picnic in the cemetery.

The tents in the background were where the picnic took place.


  1. I don't feel so crazy now. I have always thought cemeteries were so peaceful and a good time to reflect and slow down from the every day "traffic". Nothing more real then going to where you can see just how precious our time is on earth and to arrange our priorities accordingly so that we make the most of every day and the relationships that we share with one another.

  2. I absolutely agree. And there are many more of us out there-- who recognize just how calming a spiritual experience a cemetery may be.