A graveyard is an area of land, usually near a church, that has been set aside for burials. It is often fenced and has rules about how people can pay their respects to loved ones interred there.
In Europe, until about the 7th century, burials were firmly under the control of the church and could only take place on consecrated ground in the churchyard. As populations grew, the capacity of these grounds was quickly exceeded and new places for burial were needed.
The History of Graveyards
Historically, a graveyard has been the area of land or a part of a churchyard where Christians were buried. Those who were wealthy or of noble birth were interred inside a church in a crypt while less wealthy congregants were buried outside in the section of the churchyard called the graveyard.
As the population began to grow, churchyards were running out of space and non-church-associated cemeteries were created to handle the burial needs of people who could not be buried on church grounds. Eventually, the terms graveyard and cemetery became interchangeable as they both refer to a place where people are buried.
The word graveyard is believed to have derived from the proto-Germanic word “graban,” which means to dig. It’s an apt name for a yard filled with graves. Over time, many cultures have held superstitions and legends associated with a graveyard. Often, they have been places for devil worshipping, grave-robbing (for gold teeth and jewelry), thrill-seeking sex encounters and other clandestine activities.
The Difference Between Cemeteries and Graveyards
Graveyard and cemetery are two words often used interchangeably, but they’re actually very different. A graveyard is a large ground that’s primarily used to bury bodies and usually directly affiliated with a church, which limits the people who can be buried there to congregants of the connected religion.
Cemeteries, on the other hand, are not directly affiliated with any particular church and are generally much larger than graveyards. They also allow burials for people of all faiths and have more flexible rules when it comes to headstones.
As the population grew, it became clear that church graveyards couldn’t handle the growing number of burials. As a result, new independent places for burying people appeared and were called cemeteries. The etymology of the word “graveyard” is interesting; it is derived from the Greek word koimeterion, which means’sleeping place.’ It is a good reminder to consider the difference between these two burial grounds when making end-of-life arrangements.
The Pros and Cons of Burial in a Graveyard
A burial can provide a sense of closure for loved ones and a place to remember the deceased. It is also traditional and sometimes required by religions.
However, a burial can be expensive depending on how fancy you want to make it and how many extras you add. There are also environmental concerns. A traditional burial uses a lot of metal, concrete, and embalming fluid which can have negative impacts on the environment.
Moreover, some people worry about the overcrowded state of cemeteries. Some countries have even run out of usable land for cemeteries. This has caused some families to opt for re-using graves, which can be a challenge since locating living family members who have purchased the rights to those graves is often impossible or prohibitively expensive. Additionally, a graveyard may not be as peaceful if it is located close to homes and businesses. This can lead to a noisy and unsettling environment. Those who prefer to lower their carbon footprint and return to the earth can choose a green or natural burial instead.
Choosing a Grave
Choosing the place you want to be buried or helping a loved one make these arrangements is an important and personal decision. There are many factors to consider, including cost and location. It’s important to compare prices and options among cemeteries, and visit them if possible, to make sure they meet your preferences.
Some people prefer a cemetery with a long history, others may find peace in a lush garden setting. Some offer options like mausoleums and scattering gardens, while others have religious statues or hilltop views. You’ll also want to ask about the cemetery’s specific rules and regulations. For example, some have guidelines regarding headstone size and material.
It’s also important to consider the cemetery’s policy on re-using old graves. Oftentimes, this is done because of space constraints. However, older family members can be distressed by this practice. In such cases, the cemetery will typically provide public notice and give families an opportunity to object.