Dec 21, 2016
After the loss
of a loved one, many people feel alone in their grief, especially once the
funeral has taken place. 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 or inviting Santa for a visit
encourages the public to socialize in the funeral home, which creates an
atmosphere of positive associations where families can feel comfortable sharing
stories and reflecting on the past.
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. Another wonderful way directors help others this time of year is
by hosting a Holiday Memorial Service, Tree Lighting Ceremony or Candlelight
Vigil that is open to all families served by the funeral home during the year. This allows the bereaved
to gather together to honor their loved one and share experiences with others
who understand their grief. It also gives families a place to come where their
feelings of loss are acknowledged and recognized.
There are so
many inspiring examples out there of different ways funeral homes are supporting
grieving families during the holidays. We know our list below just scratches
the surface of all the wonderful holiday traditions happening at funeral homes
across the country this month. Be sure to leave us a comment to share with us
how your funeral home makes the holidays brighter for your community.
Homes That Are Making The Holidays Brighter For Families In Their Community:
1. Mauger-Givnish Funeral Home
A photo of the
Mauger-Givnish Funeral Home located in Malvern, PA all lit up with beautiful
Christmas lights and decorations.
2. David-Donehower Funeral Home
David-Donehower Funeral Home in Detroit Lakes, MN holds
a meaningful Remembrance ceremony every year. This event brings their
community together to remember lost loved ones.
“We make a photo DVD of
all the 2016 people who have passed and run that for prelude and postlude. We
have a special time of “naming.” As the deceased name is called a family member
comes forward and lights a handheld candle. They then go back and light the
candles of their family members who are with them. When all the names have been
called we all sing Silent Night together and then we blow out the flame. After
the ceremony we pass out a beautiful ornament and attached to the ornament is a
laminated photo of their loved one. We then have a lovely lunch and
3. B.C. Bailey Funeral Home
B.C. Bailey Funeral Home in Wallingford, CT participates in Operation Toy Soldier, which
collects toys for the children of deployed soldiers. In the photo above, two of
the firm’s funeral directors pose with the town mayor and another toy soldier.
4. Pantalone Funeral Home
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
“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,”
says Funeral Home Office Manager, Melanie Pantalone. “Light
refreshments were provided and everyone left with an “Angel” coin as
a remembrance. Donations are continuing to be accepted for Toys for Tots. 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.”
5. Syka Funeral Home
Syka Funeral Home in
Ambridge, PA all decked out for the holidays!
“Outside we have a
large wreath that lights up at night and on each lamp post we have a Christmas
tree branch decked with a red bow,”
says Funeral Director, David Syka.
“There is a total of 8 lamp posts in front of the home. The second picture
is our entrance when you walk through the front doors. We have a multi color
Christmas tree with fiber optics and on the back wall we have another wreath.
The other picture is of a letter that we send out to every family that we
service during the year. It is our way of showing that we sincerely care about
them and that we are here for them whenever they need us.”
6. Traunero Funeral Home
Traunero Funeral Home and Crematory in Tiffin, OH has held an annual Holiday Memorial Program every
year for the past 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,”
says Funeral Director, 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.
7. Heald & Chiampa
Heald & Chiampa Funeral Directors
in Shrewsbury, MA hosted an annual “Santa at Sumner” event earlier this month,
giving children and parents a place to come visit with Santa, take photos, and
spend time together while enjoying holiday festivities.
“Santa arrived via fire
truck and was photographed with over 250,”
said Funeral Directors, John and Jim
. “A gift from Santa was presented while all those who attended enjoyed
holiday music and hot chocolate and a Santa cookie from a neighboring business.
It was a great day.”
8. Keeney & Basford P.A.
Beautiful Christmas tree lights
illuminate the historic Keeney and Basford Funeral Home in Frederick, MD.
9. Garden Chapel
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,”
says Funeral Director, Mark Van Roekel. “There was a short
presentation by our funeral director and our grief coordinator, followed by
bell ringers, and we ended the evening by serving them pie. We also gave each
family a Christmas ornament with their loved one’s name on it.”
10. Doran Funeral Home
Doran Funeral Home in
Seneca Falls, NY did a wonderful job decking the halls at their funeral home.
We especially love the poinsettia car!
11. Ogle & Paul R. Young
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 65 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),”
said Ogle and Paul
Young Funeral Homes’ Director of Communications,
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 65 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 (which was
held Dec 10th of this year) 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
12. Emerald Coast Funeral Home
A photo of the beautiful Christmas
Tree on display at Emerald Coast Funeral Home in Fort Walton Beach, FL. Earlier
this month, the funeral home hosted a Candlelight Memorial Service for families
served during the year. Here is a video the funeral home created to promote the
event, which showcases their beautiful holiday decorations:
13. McCrery & Harra
Funeral Homes and Crematory
McCrery and Harra Funeral Homes in Wilmington, DE began a new holiday tradition this year. Funeral Director, Todd Harra, donned a Santa suit and welcomed everyone in the community to visit and take free photos.
Todd explains, “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 Dec. 11, 2-4pm. All Are Welcome!’
We had plenty of kids, big kids, and pets come and 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 was a great event!”
14. Jones Family Funeral
The directors at Jones Family Funeral Homes in Decatur and Brideport, TX can spread holiday cheer everywhere they go with their glowing van.
15. John P. Condon Funeral
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,” John explains. “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.”
16. Magoun-Biggins Funeral
Every year, the directors of Magoun Biggins Funeral Home in Rockland, MA transform 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,” explains Funeral Director, 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 year, as in years past we were blessed to have several thousand of our neighbors visit our North Pole. 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.”
17. Latek and Rybicki
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,” explains 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.”
18. Sheldon Kukuchka
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.”
19. Clark Funeral Chapel
The directors at Clark Family Funeral Chapel IN Mt. Pleasant, MI understand that Christmas can be difficult for many people, particularly those who are grieving or feeling homesick. The funeral home has taken great care in creating their stunning and tasteful decoration displays, but what they care even more about is helping to make the holidays brighter for those serving overseas.
Funeral Director, Jane Clark, explains, “We love Christmas here, but understand for families it isn’t so merry and bright. We try to stay with understated beauty with our trees and our decorations. It seems to work as we get many compliments on how beautiful and serene everything looks. In particular we love our Patriotic tree. For over five years, we have collected stockings filled with toiletries and snacks for our military abroad.
This year we sent 325 stockings and hundreds of packages of Girl Scout cookies, Twinkies, Hostess cupcakes, hard candy bags… just a taste of American home. It totaled over 1300 pounds. Some are going to the Afghanistan border where those units are under daily fire, to another unit that was recently bombed, to a military person who is serving his first year away from home, to my nephew, and more units. Thank goodness for this community’s generosity, for my staff who each gave me 40 plus hours of their time inventorying and preparing for customs, even my grandsons! It’s a lot of work but so worth it.”
20. Anderson Winfield
For more than five decades, the Anderson-Winfield Funeral Home in Greenville, RI has held its annual “Lighting of the Green” ceremony to welcome the Christmas season and spread holiday cheer within their community. What a great 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,” says Funeral Director, Charlene Winfield Capuano. “There were 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, to this year’s inaugural Smithfield’s All Lit Up Parade, organized by Tom Winfield and committee.”
Here is a video the funeral home shared with us of the “All Lit Up” Parade:
21. F. Ruggiero & Sons Funeral Home
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 the last 23 years, 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 140 years,” says Funeral Director, 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. Each year, the attendance gets better and this year we had about 300+ people attend!”
22. Aubertine Lopes
Aubertine-Lopes Funeral Home in New Bedford, MA has a beautiful memorial Christmas tree on display in their foyer.
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 would like to thank all of the funeral homes listed above for going above and beyond for helping others during the Christmas season. Thank you for sharing your holiday traditions with us!
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