Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Most tombstones usually face east. According to sources I read, the tradition began when Pagans buried the dead so they would face the rising sun. The tradition continues in Judeo-Christian societies. The layout of most cemeteries today stem from biblical history and tradition. Some modern cemeteries may have graves facing other directions, but east-facing tombstones are still found in many traditional Christian and Jewish cemeteries.

As above, according to Ethnicity and the American Cemetery, the feet of the deceased face east as well. This tradition is based on the belief that when Jesus returns, the departed will rise from the grave already facing his direction.

Some Christian churches were built with their entrances facing west so that worshipers faced east during the services as they look toward the altar.

References of east and west occur throughout the Bible. In The Bible Significance of East and West, or Is The Dawn Appearing, sacred places are referenced in the Bible showing that people entered places like the Garden of Eden from the east, facing west.

Some newer cemeteries have broken away from tradition for practical reasons, like easy layout. In modern times, changes are often made to accommodate the accepting of all religious and spiritual beliefs. But, east-facing cemeteries still exist and arouse the curiosity of people today.


In ancient times, headstones were mounds of stones. Visitors would add a pebble to the pile of stones to show respect for the dead. Some believe the tradition is simply a carry-over from when headstones were just piles of stones.

Putting flowers on graves to remember a loved one is a custom embraced by many. Placing pebbles on the grave is a Jewish tradition. While flowers wither and die, stones last forever.

Some believe placing pebbles on graves started as superstition. It was believed the souls of the departed would rise out of their grave and haunt those left behind, but the placement of pebbles on the grave was thought to prevent them from rising up.


Traditionally, coins were once left on grave markers as a sign that the deceased was well-loved and respected. Coins were seen on graves long before people began leaving flowers, which is a practice started a few hundred years ago.

Some cultures believed that coins paid for one's journey in the afterlife. Coins left at graves also have been used as a way to ask a favor of the deceased, or as an offering to God to make sure that the deceased is all right in the afterlife.

The American tradition of leaving pennies on the grave dates back to Benjamin Franklin's funeral, when his grave was covered in pennies left by the thousands who came from around the country to pay their respects. The more pennies left on the grave, the more esteem was bestowed on the deceased. Finally, some believe that leaving pennies on a grave is a symbol of the words on the coin: "In God We Trust."

1 comment:

lechap said...

Interesting and informative. Thanks.