Graveyard Cleaning and Decoration Day

Graveyard Cleaning and Decoration Day

Between May and early September
In some Southern states—particularly Texas, Kentucky, and Tennessee—a day in summer is set aside for honoring the dead and maintaining the local cemetery. Sometimes called Grave Day, Memorial Day, Decoration Day, or Memory Day, it is a time for families and neighbors to get together, sharing "dinner-on-the-ground" or picnic suppers and listening to sermons. In Pleasant Grove, Kentucky, Grave Day originated as a peace-making ceremony after the Civil War had split Hardin County into two opposing factions.
Graveyard Cleaning Day is often held in July, but it may be observed any time from late May until early September. There usually isn't any connection to official Memorial Day celebrations; the date is a matter of local choice and convenience. In New Orleans, for example, it is customary to whitewash the tombs on All Saints' Day. All of these observations, however, harken back to the ancient Roman festival known as the Parentalia, an uncharacteristically somber occasion on which people decorated the graves of the deceased with flowers and left food in the cemeteries to sustain the spirits of the dead.
SOURCES:
FolkAmerHol-1999, p. 326