When you visit the grave of a loved one or drive by a cemetery, you may notice that every headstone points in the same direction.
In the past, memorials and headstones were used to show where a person was buried. But as time has gone on, it has become a way for grieving families to find peace. Memorials and headstones give families who have lost a loved one a physical link between the past, the present, and the future.
This helps them through a hard time of adjusting. It also helps the family and friends of the person who died deal with the loss of a loved one and gives them a place to remember the person and the times they spent with them. Legacy headstones should convey the person’s interests, personality, and the nature of their life.
It is a way to remember them and keep their stories alive so that other people can share them. It’s also the last act of love that marks the end of their time together. But did you know that the way a headstone is set up has a meaning?
Read on to find out why it’s common to lay a loved one to rest with their head to the west and their feet to the east, as well as what other common grave items mean.
How Headstones Started Facing East
Some ancient religions told people to face their dead loved ones to the east so they could be ready for the “new day” and the “rising sun.” The rising sun was a sign of progress and a promise that the next day would be full of new chances.
Several books of the Bible also talk about Christ’s resurrection and how “He will come from the east”. This is why a lot of people think of Christ as the “Light of the World” or the “rising sun.” This is also the main reason why the altars of so many churches face east.
Are All Cemeteries On The East Side?
Even though most cemeteries face east, some older ones might not. When people used the position of the sun to find their way, it was much harder to find the true east because many people didn’t realize that the sun moves every day. So, you’ll notice that not all cemeteries face east.
Headstones To Religion
Even though most headstones face east, their placement can be very different depending on the religion of the person who died. Here are some other known rules about where to put headstones based on religion.
There are no hard and fast rules about how a headstone should be placed in Catholicism. But in some Catholic churches, the feet of the casket of a loved one still point toward the altar. The rule is still in place but isn’t followed as often as it used to be. It only applies to the funeral Mass, not the actual burial.
Jewish customs don’t say that headstones have to face a certain way. Jewish loved ones were frequently buried with their feet facing the cemetery entrance when families were waiting for the ultimate redemption and the messianic era, signifying their preparedness to leave the cemetery once the resurrection took place.
Islam has rules about how headstones should look and be made, but different places have different rules about how they should be placed. Normally, the headstone should be at right angles to the direction of the Qibla (located in Mecca).
When put in this way, the dead would be on the right side of the tomb, facing the Qibla. Visitors can’t walk or sit on the final resting place because the headstones are no more than a foot above the ground.
Headstones For Buddhists
Most Buddhists choose to be cremated as their last choice, and most families put the ashes of a loved one in an urn before burying them after cremation. The way people are buried and what they want on their headstones still vary from family to family, just like in other religions.
More Symbols Can Be Found In Graveyards
Other grave items have their roots in history and tradition, just like the way a headstone is placed. Here are some of the most common types of symbolism used in cemeteries today.
Stones On Grave Markers
Family members and friends have been remembering their dead loved ones by putting stones on headstones and burying them. Putting stones on headstones was originally a Jewish custom, but anyone can do it to show they were at the cemetery to visit and honor their loved ones.
Putting Flowers On Graves
Flowers, both real and fake, are often left at the gravesite of a loved one to honor their life. But did you know that different kinds of flowers have the following meanings?
Roses that are very dark red mean that someone is sad. Lilies can be a symbol of innocence, purity, or power. Red roses can be a sign of love, respect, or bravery.
Coins on Memorials
When current or former military members visit the grave of a fallen comrade, they often leave money in the form of coins. Each coin means something different:
Pennies left on the gravestone simply notify relatives, friends, and other visitors that you came. Nickels mean that you and the person who died both went to school. Dimes show that you worked as a team. Tell the veteran’s family that you were there when he or she died.
One headstone may face east, while the next may face west, depending on the cemetery’s preference. In this way, individuals who pay their respects to the departed have greater room and solitude. In some ways, it doesn’t matter how someone is buried or how they are facing when they are laid to rest. The life that has been lived and honoring the deceased’s specific requests for their last resting place is ultimately what matters most.