What Are Grave Blankets?

grave-blankets Credit: RubberBall Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

A grave blanket is a floral display consisting of woven evergreen boughs that covers an entire grave. These displays are popular in northern climates, and they are often placed on graves before the first snow as a symbolic way of keeping deceased loved ones warm. They typically contain ribbons, fresh flowers and other decorations, and they may be left on a grave all winter long.

Typically, the base of a grave blanket is a sheet of chicken wire, with the evergreen boughs woven through it to create a solid sheet of greenery. Many florists who create grave blankets use discarded branches from Christmas tree farms to prevent waste.

The origin of the grave blanket tradition is lost to history. One possible explanation is that it is an extension of the Jewish tradition of mounding graves, leaving them raised above the surrounding earth in order to designate the final resting place of a family member. Since most cemeteries do not allow raised grave mounds, a grave blanket is a way of marking the place without permanently affecting the local landscape. Cemeteries that allow grave blankets often leave them in place until spring, and new blankets are placed each year.

In cemeteries where full grave covers are not allowed, grave pillows are an alternate option. These are just like grave blankets, only much smaller.