It’s pretty common to see a cheery arrangement of flowers at a cemetery. Did you know that this practice sprouted thousands of years ago? Ancient Greeks placed flowers on warriors’ graves — it was thought that if flowers grew on the grave, warriors had moved on and found happiness in the next world and they were sending a message to say so.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s a Grave Blanket?
- Purposes of a Grave Blanket
- Types of Grave Blankets
- Where You Can Buy a Grave Blanket
Whether you live in Florida or Alaska, you’ll still see flowers near headstones — though people have to get creative when it comes to decorating graves during chillier weather.
You may see gravesites decorated with woven arrangements of greenery when you visit a cemetery or graveyard in the winter. These arrangements are called grave blankets, or cemetery blankets.
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A grave blanket is an evergreen arrangement that covers the ground above a grave. Grave blankets are usually placed atop gravesites before the first snow.
They may also be placed around Thanksgiving or Christmas when the foliage is gone and the trees are bare for the winter — it can brighten up the barren landscape. Grave blankets are often adorned with holiday-themed decorations around the holidays.
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History of grave blankets
Grave blankets first became used in the upper Midwestern part of the United States when Scandinavian settlers brought the tradition over from their own country. Grave blankets are most often used in states like Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota. Grave blankets may be as much a part of decorating custom as Christmas trees or wreaths in these areas, especially in smaller towns.
Grave blankets can be purchased or handmade. They are typically made from the boughs of evergreens and festooned with pine cones, baby’s breath, flowers, ribbons, or seasonally-appropriate decor.
Pricing can depend on a variety of factors — whether it’s made of fresh evergreens or artificial materials, its size, the decorations it features and more. Depending on those factors, a grave blanket starts around $75 and can go up to $100 or more.
Grave blankets have several purposes beyond making a drab cemetery look cheerful. Here are a few other reasons you might want to incorporate a grave blanket.
Provides decoration for winter
It doesn’t make sense to put fresh-cut flowers on a grave during the winter months. Most blooms are simply too fragile to survive more than a few hours in the ice and snow. Hardier foliage like evergreen is much more able to stand up to winter slush and frost.
Offers a way to “care for” your loved one
Laying a blanket atop a gravesite can symbolize tucking a blanket around your loved one for warmth. Like cleaning a loved one's headstone, it allows you to make a gesture that’s both symbolic and physical.
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Adds a bit of nostalgia
It’s hard to decorate your house for the holidays when your departed loved one isn’t there to participate. Using a grave blanket to decorate a gravesite can help you feel more connected to your deceased loved one.
You may want to make your own grave blanket at home, inspired by holiday decor you shared with this person. Bring it to the gravesite for decoration — it can be a healing process for you.
A grave blanket “involves” your deceased loved ones
Just because someone in your life dies, it doesn’t mean that they’re no longer with us. You can include the people you care about in your life by honoring them and including them throughout the year, whether it’s by bringing flowers in the spring or decorating with grave blankets during the winter holiday season.
Grave blankets aren’t made out of fabric like a standard holiday quilt but can still be creative. Here are the different types of grave blankets you might want to try out.
Holiday grave blankets
Grave blankets can celebrate an upcoming holiday. You can use bright orange and yellow mums to craft a Thanksgiving or fall festival-themed grave blanket if you decorate before the first snow. You might use evergreen boughs adorned with ribbons in red and green and gold, jingle bells, pinecones, poinsettias, or other festive decor closer to Christmas.
Many cemeteries have limits on how long grave blankets may be left out. Once spring arrives and snow begins to melt, cemetery staff will remove grave blankets as new, fresh greenery begins to grow.
For that reason, Easter grave blankets tend to not be very popular, although some cemeteries will allow temporary Easter-themed displays. Ask for the rules and guidelines wherever your loved ones are buried.
Fresh grave blankets
Many local florists will work with fresh foliage to make a grave blanket. The upside to using a local florist is that the florist will know the rules and regulations of nearby cemeteries. The downside is that fresh greenery may need frequent tending to make sure it doesn’t dry out and turn brown.
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Artificial grave blankets
You can source artificial grave blankets online, usually through crafting websites. The downside is that prices for this work are often much higher than they are for fresh grave blankets because they last a lot longer.
DIY grave blankets
You can always try your hand at making your own grave blanket with easy-to-source tools that you can find in your local craft and hardware stores.
You can create a base for your grave blanket with boards, chicken wire, nails, pliers, and florist’s foam. You can incorporate either fresh greenery or artificial flowers, depending on your personal preference.
Grave blankets can be found at your local florist or through an online florist. Be sure to check in with your cemetery before ordering.
You’ll want to make sure grave blankets are permitted, and if so, you’ll need to find out if there are any restrictions on sizes, times of the year they should be used, anchoring techniques, and types of material.
Staying Connected to Your Loved One
If you live in a cold climate and have resigned yourself to not visiting your loved one in their final resting places during snowy months, a grave blanket can help you feel more connected to your loved one who has passed away.
Not only will it make the gravesite feel less bleak, but you can also incorporate your departed loved ones into your celebration of the winter holidays.