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Grave blankets: Evergreen remembrances are a suburban tradition

Grave pillows, which have become increasingly popular at local cemeteries, provide comfort for the bereaved during the holidays. Seth Harrison/lohud, The Journal News/lohud Their exact origin is lost to history. Some say grave blankets began in Scandinavia, where families would place evergreen boughs on graves in winter, a simple decoration to add color in a stark, white landscape where fresh flowers wouldn’t survive. The tradition made its way to the New World and is prominent in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where Scandinavians settled in large numbers. But you don’t have to go that far to see the tradition in action. From now till Christmas, drive by any florist or garden center in the metropolitan area — particularly ones near cemeteries — and you’ll see signs advertising grave blankets. ‘This is for the living’ They can be simple or ornate, embellished with ribbons and ornaments and artificial flowers impervious to the weather. They can be large — to cover the entire footprint of the gravesite — or smaller, to cover just a portion. Some call the smaller variety a “grave pillow.” “All of this is for the living,” says Joe Pugni Jr., of Grayrock Memorials and Cemetery Services in Valhalla, New York, a stone’s throw from the massive Gate of Heaven Cemetery . “This gives people comfort, it gives them purpose, to remember. It’s a memorial. They feel good about it.” Joe Pugna carries finished grave blanket at Grayrock Memorial Cemetery Services in Valhalla Nov. 21, 2019. Grayrock makes the decorative evergreen arrangement each year for the holidays. This time of year, Pugni’s shop smells like a forest, as his son, Joe Pugni III, and a crew of workers toil in the basement, assembling grave blankets from evergreen branches that arrive by the truckload. They make quick work of it, tying […]

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