Remember Me researchers Dr Yvonne Inall and Rev Dr Andrew Goodhead consider emerging strategies for remembrance at Advent and Christmas time.
With the onset of winter and as Christmas approaches, families come together. This is also a time when family members or friends who have died are remembered. In bereavement, men and women remember those who have died and a number of ways to remember are employed to make the dead ‘come alive’, metaphorically, if not physically. The dead may simply be in our thoughts, we may reminisce about them with friends and family over Christmas drinks. We may visit their final resting places, or places that were of significance to them in life. It may be a time when we choose to attend spiritual or religious services in remembrance of the departed. For some of us, the pain of absence is simply too much to bear.
Emerging methods of memorialisation are coming to the fore to aid people in their commemorations. Many hospices, crematoria and funeral directors now organise memorial services in Advent. These draw on the Christian remembrance of All Souls but broaden the theme of remembering the dead by including spiritual and secular material at these events. St Christopher’s Hospice in London organises two ‘Remembering With’ services, held in the grounds of their bases in Orpington and Sydenham. Bereaved families, individuals and friends of the deceased who had been cared for in the hospice come together in a service designed to allow a public remembrance. The highlight of the service is the Act of Remembrance which includes lighting individual candles and lighting the remembrance lights on a Christmas tree.
As a charity drive for Marie Curie, Sandhill Garden Centre in East Yorkshire hosted a memorial Christmas tree in 2014. For a small donation, visitors were encouraged to write messages for a deceased relative or friend on a small card that could be hung on the memorial tree.
There is a growing market for personalised Christmas ornaments featuring photographs and commemorative messages in honour of lost loved ones, like these examples:
How will you choose to remember the departed this Christmas? We invite you to share your stories with us either in the comments, or directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Yvonne Inall is an archaeologist and Postdoctoral Research Assistant on the Remember Me project working on the archaeological case study: Deep in Time: Meaning and Mnemonic in Archaeological and Diaspora Studies of Death.
Rev Dr Andrew Goodhead is a Chaplain at St Christopher’s Hospice, London and a Co-Investigator on the Remember Me project. He leads the our case study: Free-writing in Palliative Care and Bereavement.
Feature image by Malene Thyssen, used under creative commons licence.