Dec 05, 2022
For those who are mourning the loss of a significant person in their lives, it can feel as though the whole world has moved on without you. This is especially true during jubilation of the holiday season when grief can make one feel like the only boat floating against the current. That is why the role of a funeral director is so vital, especially during the holidays. Families who are suffering a loss need to understand they are not invisible and not alone, and many funeral homes have done a tremendous job promoting that message within their communities.
There are many different ways a funeral home can offer their help to others during the holidays. Sending a heartfelt letter can help bereaved family members feel less isolated in their grief. Displaying colorful decorations and twinkling lights will remind families that a funeral home is a welcoming haven they can visit anytime they need support and a friendly conversation. Hosting a fun holiday event, concert or inviting Santa for a visit encourages the public to socialize at the funeral home, which creates an atmosphere of positive associations where families can feel comfortable sharing stories and reflecting on the past. For other funeral homes, Christmas is a time to encourage generosity within the community by inspiring others to make donations to an important cause or participate in a charity event.
For decades, funeral homes have held holiday remembrance services inviting families that have lost a loved one the previous year to come together. Whether they come to hear their loved one’s name read aloud or to place a memorial ornament on a remembrance tree, that acknowledgment is no small thing. It means the world to so many people who often feel invisible this time of year. We know firsthand how important these events are because there is not a single day in December our Call Specialists don’t speak to a family member inquiring about a funeral home’s holiday service or tradition.
There are so many inspiring examples out there of different traditions funeral homes have that make the holidays more meaningful for their community. We know our list below just scratches the surface of all the events and activities happening at funeral homes across the country this month. Be sure to leave us a comment to share your funeral home’s holiday tradition.
20 Funeral Homes Making the Holidays Brighter for Their Community
Roupp Funeral Home’s Holiday Memorial Service & Santa Event
Every holiday season, Roupp Funeral Home hand delivers Christmas tree ornaments to families they served the previous year.
The staff at Roupp Funeral Home in Mifflinburg, PA are as busy as Santa’s elves all through December as they coordinate both their Holiday Memorial Service and Cocoa with Santa event. Personalized ornaments are hand delivered to families who lost a loved one during the previous year along with an invitation to the annual memorial service. In addition, early December brings a visit from old Saint Nick to the funeral home for a free event that invites kids to sit on Santa’s lap, take a photo and tell the big guy what they want for Christmas. We love all the different ways the funeral home celebrates Christmas and how dedicated they are to preserving these heartfelt traditions.
Children visit with Santa at Roupp Funeral Home’s annual Cocoa with Santa event.
Graves Funeral Home’s Turkey Giveaway
Every year right before Christmas, Graves Funeral Home in Norfolk, VA gives away hundreds of turkeys and side dishes to families who might otherwise go hungry. This incredible tradition dates back more than 10 years. Last year, the funeral home staff gave out 400 turkeys to their community. What a great way to help those families in need enjoy a delicious Christmas meal. We commend the staff there for their kindness and generosity.
Mountain View Funeral Home’s “Lights of Love” Event
At Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery in Mesa AZ, families are treated to a spectacular display of lights and a unique drive-through remembrance service for those who experienced a loss during the previous year.
From the Funeral Home’s Facebook Page:“We have always had an Annual Remembrance Service for Families that have lost a loved one. Three years ago we had to get creative to keep families safe during the pandemic. We now have “Lights of Love”. Lights of Love is a Drive through where families can enjoy the lights, decorations, carolers, hot chocolate, cookies, place a heart with their loved one’s name in our shadow box and light a candle in their loved one’s honor…Our hope with “Lights of Love” is to uplift the hearts of those that have experienced a loss of a loved one.”
Ogle and Paul R. Young Funeral Home’s Live Nativity and Christmas Celebration
At Ogle & Paul R. Young Funeral Home in Cincinatti, OH, the community comes together every year for a special Christmas celebration held at the funeral home. The tradition began with the funeral home’s life-size wax figure Nativity Scene, which has been a fixture of the community for over 70 years. The event has since grown to include many other wonderful holiday traditions.
“My grandpa was a medic in WWII and when the war ended he received permission to do a brief session at Madam Tussaud’s in London to study wax sculpture under Bernard Tussaud (Madam’s great grandson),” shared Sarah Young. “After returning home and starting his own funeral home a few years later, he constructed the first of his life-size, wax Nativity figures, Mary and Jesus. Today we have a full manger of life-size wax figures, including live sheep and donkeys. Each year at Christmas for over 70 years our funeral home has been displaying the Nativity on the front lawn of our funeral home – open to the public 24/hrs a day and 7 days a week until just after the New Year. It’s been a tradition for families in our community for decades!
A few years back we also started an annual open house on the opening day of our Nativity scene. Included in the Christmas celebration is a live, brass quartet that plays on our front porch; an open house with refreshments and historical tours of our 1833 home; a life-size wax Santa (sculpted after my grandpa passed by a friend who helps us take care of my grandpa’s figures); wheelchair and stroller accessible carriage rides from a mule-drawn carriage; a live visiting reindeer; a street closure with a funnel fry booth and a kettle corn booth; and of course my grandpa’s historic and beautiful life-sized, wax Nativity with live sheep and donkeys. It’s all free – every bit of it – to the community we love and serve every day!
My grandpa was an artist and funeral director (he taught restorative art at Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science) who loved Christmas; it was his great pleasure to share the joy and hope of Christmas with others. The Nativity stays open 24/7 until after the New Year. We also do carriage rides + brass quartet three more evenings before Christmas. Two other organizations in our city have scheduled their Christmas events the same day, earlier in the day, and we have been advertising jointly for them to start a lasting tradition of Christmas in Mt. Healthy. Last year we had 2000 people attend our open house and we are anticipating hundreds more this year as news of this community event grows.”
Anderson Winfield Funeral Home’s “Lighting of the Green”
For more than five decades, the Anderson-Winfield Funeral Home in Greenville, RI has held its annual “Lighting of the Green” tree lighting ceremony to welcome the Christmas season and spread holiday cheer within their community. The funeral directors also play an active rule in their town’s annual holiday parade. What an awesome tradition!
“Here at Anderson-Winfield Funeral Home, we celebrate the Christmas season with a parade and lighting of the green, a 70’ Christmas tree and crèche, on the common in front of the funeral home,” shared Charlene Winfield Capuano. “In the past we have had approximately 1000 people in attendance! The funeral home has been celebrating the “Lighting of the Green” for over 50 years. In the earliest years it was a group of Carolers and some local folks, later, my family, The Winfield’s, started serving hot chocolate and cookies, and now it is a part of Smithfield’s All Lit Up Parade, which is organized by Tom Winfield and committee.”
Traunero Funeral Home’s Holiday Memorial Program
Traunero Funeral Home and Crematory in Tiffin, OH has held an annual Holiday Memorial Program every year for more than 20 years. This service allows the community to pay tribute to loved ones they have lost during the year and share memories.
“We invite all families served in the past year, as well as the public. We have a candlelight ceremony, and each family who makes reservations receives a gold ornament with the name of their loved one engraved on it,” shared Richard Traunero. “There is a Tree of Remembrance service, where names are read and families hang their ornament on the tree. Families then take their ornament home with them. Two members of our local clergy speak on “Hope for the Holidays.” Refreshments are served afterwards, and we have derived tremendous satisfaction by offering this service. The feedback is fantastic. It all takes place at our funeral home, an 1881 Victorian mansion, which is fully decorated inside and out for the season.”
Preferred Cremation and Burial Christmas Jazz Concert
Preferred Cremation and Burial in San Diego, CA holds a Holiday Jazz Concert that is broadcast online for free. The tradition that began during the pandemic as a way to help keep the community entertained during a time when so many events were cancelled. The live streamed concert became so popular and well received the funeral home continues to hold it for their community. This year, the Holiday Jazz Concert will feature Grammy award-winning keyboardist, Kemau Kenyatta, and recording artist, Deneen Wilburt.
“Many families have used our holiday jazz concert soundtrack as the backdrop to their Christmas festivities in the comfort of their own homes,” shared Mark Jenkins.
Chiampa Funeral Home’s Toys for Tots Drive and Letters to Santa Mailbox
Chiampa Funeral Home at Sumner House in Shrewsbury, MA has been collecting Toys for Tots at their funeral home for many years. This is great way to inspire generosity within the community. The funeral home also installed a mailbox where children can visit and leave their letters for Santa.
Magoun Biggins Funeral Home’s North Pole and Holiday Stroll Event
Every year, the directors of Magoun Biggins Funeral Home in Rockland, MA transforms their building into “The North Pole” with stunning Christmas decorations and invite the public to a special North Pole event that includes a visit from St. Nick himself!
“The week before Thanksgiving, our staff covers all funeral home signage, with that of “The North Pole,” shared Dan Biggins. “All funeral home/funeral related objects are put away, and we decorate our antique Victorian House, as if it were Kris Kringle’s own. The Saturday after Thanksgiving we open the doors of “The North Pole” to family’s in our community of Rockland to come enjoy the home, its beautiful decorations, and for children to sit on Santa’s lap to fill him in on all of their Christmas wishes. Santa arrives at our building in one of our town’s fire trucks, sirens blaring. The look of joy and excitement on all those children faces when he arrives is simply priceless. During the time families are waiting for their turn to see “The Big Guy” we have Victorian Carolers serenading them with Christmas cheer! This event has been a wonderful opportunity for our family to fill our building with hope, and cheer, while helping us get into the spirit of the Christmas season.”
Hanneman Funeral Home’s Spectacular Festival of Lights
Funeral professionals have seen so much tragedy in recent years and understand how starved many people are for a reason to be cheerful. Many have endeavored to create beautiful light displays to delight people who drive by or visit. One of the most incredible examples we have seen is the one at Hanneman Funeral Home in Bowling Green, OH. Featuring a staggering 500,000 Christmas lights, the display is considered the best in town and delights visitors every year.
Brunner Sanden Deitrick Funeral Home’s Tree of Remembrance Memorial Service
Brunner Sanden Detrick Funeral Home in Mentor, OH holds an annual Tree of Remembrance Memorial Service that brings hundreds of people from the community together to hear their loved one’s name read aloud. The event invites guests to an ornament on the funeral home’s large outdoor memorial tree and has been held at the funeral home every year for more than 30 years.
“The families we serve throughout the year enjoy being able to come together every year to remember their loved ones,” shared Adam Sanden. “It’s an opportunity for families to pay respects to their loved ones, hang an ornament on the tree in remembrance and then we’ll light the tree at the end of the event. It’ll stay lit throughout the holiday season.”
Sheldon Kukuchka Funeral Home’s Memorial Trees and Christmas Concert Event
Sheldon-Kukuchka Funeral Home in Tunkhannock, PA helps families feel less alone during the holidays by displaying personalized Christmas tree ornaments for families served in the past.
“At our funeral home, we set up and decorate 4 trees with ornaments of pictures of each loved one who has passed away each year. We all open up our funeral home to anyone who would like to come look at the trees or take the ornaments home. A letter is sent out to each family explaining this.”
In addition to the memorial trees, the funeral home also marks the holiday season by hosting a Christmas Celebration with live music, candle lighting and refreshments.
Pantalone Funeral Home’s Annual Holiday Memorial Program
An Annual Memorial Tree Service is held every year at Pantalone Funeral Home in Greensburg, PA to help their community remember lost loved ones and to raise monies for area charities.
“Families were able to place a personalized ornament on the tree for their loved one and a short blessing service followed with the reading of the names of the deceased over the past year,” shared Melanie Pantalone. “Light refreshments were provided and everyone left with an “Angel” coin as a remembrance. The tree will be on display until after the New Year. The ornaments are then mailed to the family as a gift from the funeral home in memory of their loved one.”
McCrery and Harra Funeral Homes’ Photos with Santa Event
In 2016, McCrery and Harra Funeral Homes in Wilmington, DE began a new holiday tradition that has become a community favorite ever since. Funeral Director, Todd Harra, dons a Santa suit and welcomes everyone in the community to visit, take free photos, and enjoy some refreshments.
“I bought an old sleigh on ebay from New Philadelphia, OH and set it out on the front lawn of the funeral home (that sits on a busy highway) and surrounded it with live, decorated Christmas trees, and put packages in the sleigh and put a big 12×4′ banner in the yard that read ‘Free Photos with Santa. All Are Welcome!’,” shared Todd Harra. “We always have plenty of kids, big kids, and pets come. They can have hot chocolate and cookies and get their photo taken with Old Saint Nick (me in a fat suit the secretary sewed out of mountain mist). It is a great event!”
A promotion for this year’s upcoming Photos with Santa event.
Armstrong-Charron Funeral Home’s Angelbulb Memory Trees
Armstrong-Charron Funeral Home in Groveton, NH has a unique Christmas tradition where their community is invited to purchase an ‘angel bulb’ for a special Memory Tree. For each one that is purchased, the funeral home replaces one of the colored bulbs on the two trees in front of the funeral home with a white one indicating an “angel.” The person’s name is then added to a memory board on display outside the funeral home. All proceeds are then donated to the local food pantry.
John P. Condon Funeral Homes’ Santa Tour
For Funeral Director John Condon of John P. Condon Funeral Home in Leonardo, NJ, Christmas is about giving back and helping others. Every year, John volunteers to dress up as Santa to spread holiday cheer to those who need it most. Best of all, his children Julia and John (aka Jingle and Jangle) accompany him as elves!
“We bring Santa and his elves Jingle (Julia) and Jangle (John) to many charity events during the Christmas Season. The week is for work and school but come Friday night we don our festive garb to spread merriment wherever we can,” shared John Condon. “Some charities we have worked for so far this year are Toys for Tots, Make a Wish Foundation, NJ Autism Warriors and another Local charity called the Tigger house foundation who helps families who have been affected by opiate addiction. There are other events like Breakfasts with Santa for the Knights of Columbus and even a few Military families get some help along the way. This is our little way for celebrating the holiday and giving the gift of Christmas spirit along the way.”
F. Ruggerio and Sons Funeral Home’s Tree Lighting Remembrance Ceremony
F. Ruggiero & Sons Funeral Home in Yonkers, NY hosts an annual Tree Lighting Ceremony that is completely open to the public, giving families, friends and neighbors a place they can come together to reflect.
“For more than two decades, every second Sunday of December we host a tree lighting remembrance ceremony in the parking lot of the funeral home for all the families we have served for the last 146 years,” shared Andrew Ruggiero. “We ask local clergy members, a local university choir and a quartet of soloists to come and perform/speak for those in attendance.”
Latek and Rybicki Funeral Homes’ Memorial Tree
A beautiful memorial tree with personalized ornaments is on display each year at Latek & Rybicki Family Funeral Homes in Garfield Heights, OH.
“Our act at Latek & Rybicki Funeral Home is simple but very much appreciated. We put a tree up in our main hallway. A heart ornament is made with the name of every person we served the past year,” shared Funeral Director, Sara Wise. “Families are welcome to come and take their loved one’s heart off the tree. Often more are made so other family members can have one too.”
B.C. Bailey Funeral Home’s Operation Toy Soldier Drive
For many years, B.C. Bailey Funeral Home in Wallingford, CT has participated in Operation Toy Soldier, which collects toys for the children of deployed soldiers. The funeral home also holds several other annual charity drives to help soldiers overseas.
Garden Chapel Funeral Home’s Holiday Remembrance Program
Garden Chapel Funeral Homes in Pella, IA invites families served during the year to attend a special event called “Remembering Our Loved Ones This Holiday Season”.
“This is a time to honor loved ones who passed away. We know that the holidays can be filled with stress and extremely difficult as they choose to either continue their family traditions or create new ones,” shared Funeral Director, Mark Van Roekel. “There is a short presentation by our funeral director and our grief coordinator, followed by bell ringers, and we end the evening by serving them pie. We also give each family a Christmas ornament with their loved one’s name on it.”
All year round, and especially during the holidays, the generosity and dedication of the funeral profession is inspiring. Most people don’t know how much funeral professionals do to support and encourage others this time of year. We commend and salute all of the incredible funeral professionals across the country who are so dedicated to preserving these important holiday traditions for their communities.
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About The Author
Jess Farren (Fowler)
Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at Jess@myASD.com