What is a grave blanket? A good question. Growing up, I never gave graves much thought. Since all the older relatives lived in Germany, there was no cause to visit any graves. I guess I lived a simple life as a child but I really do not think I ever went to a funeral, much less a graveyard, till I was a teenager.
Then my grandparents passed away, and all of a sudden, I was at a graveyard saying good-bye.
The following December after my grandfather passed away, I visited his grave with my mom, and she laid this large “grave-blanket” down. To keep him warm, she told me. I figured this was something she knew about from her parents, but unfortunately never asked. Years later, when Mom was unable to keep making the Grave Blanket, I just started doing it myself. Never questioning why. While making them at the garden center, different people would ask about them, and I just said this is what we do.
Finally, a few years ago, I decided to figure out how this came to be since, even with my husband’s family, no one I knew did this. I wrote an article about it and found that the tradition started in the Upper Midwest when people from Scandinavia settled in that area. The idea is to keep your loved ones warm and protected from the outside elements. Because of the cold, of course, fresh flowers would not last – so they started using evergreen boughs along with other natural things like pine cones.
This past Saturday, when my stepfather was cutting some of his wonderful Nordmann Fir branches, I got what I needed and went home to make the Grave Blanket. After walking around our garden picking what I wanted to include in the blanket, I thought, hey, I should try and make a video of this for you. Do you know how hard it is to stop and start filming each step of the way? Once I had the 14 or so short clips finished, I had to figure out how to put them all together.
Five hours later, you see the results below. Let me remind everyone that I am the Behnke who does not know the names of many plants. Well, pretty much, most of them. I say things wrong and get mixed up, but as my cousin told me when I shared it with her to get her opinion if I should publish it, she said that while I might be hesitant about it since it was not perfect, but what is? Who of us is perfect? And seriously, I was rather proud of myself.
If you have kept reading, the whole video thing brought back the old question, Just what is a grave blanket? This morning I decided to ask my mother. I showed her some photos of what I made and told her that I took it to the graveyard. I told her that her parents were doing okay. (we talk to them when we visit) and hey Mom, why did you start making this grave blanket? She just smiled and said it would keep them warm.
I turned to her husband, who is from Germany, and asked him was this some German custom he shared with mom? He just laughed and said that those Germans love the florist industry and keeping up graves is a big deal. But he never really answered me. He just started telling me about how, as a young boy of 8 or so, he loved sitting in the greenhouse making wreaths. We went outside, and he showed me a very rough way of making a hand tied wreath that I decided there and then was way too much work for me. I left more confused than when I went there but decided I loved the idea of keeping our loved ones warm and cozy during the harsh winter months.
I would love to hear your comments on this video I attempted. You can leave them on YouTube. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly are all welcomed. (Just don’t be too harsh) Next up, The Making Of The Behnke Bow! Wish Me Luck.
Stephanie Fleming: Beyond Behnke’s