The book: Decoration Day in the Mountains Traditions of Cemetery Decoration in the Southern Appalachians by Alan Jabbour and Karen Singer Jabbour
(UNC press large format hardcover with many sharp photographs, May 2010, 256 pages, $35)
Western North Carolina is a leader in cemetery practices
“One would think that such a widespread folk custom would by now have generated an extensive literature,” Alan Jabbour writes in his and his photographer wife, Karen Singer Jabbour’s book, Decoration Day in the Mountains
. But, he observes, “there is no book-length treatment”—until now.
Decoration Day is different from Memorial Day, originally a Northern practice, which had been inspired by a general’s wife’s visit to a Confederate cemetery in Virginia in 1868. “The Southern Decoration Day,” the author explains, “takes place on different dates for different cemeteries,” and involves “dinner on the ground,” cemetery cleaning, mounding, and, of course, decoration.
The Jabbours’ book started in 2004 with a visit to the Road to Nowhere—the never completed North Shore Road—and to a cemetery cut off by the Fontana Dam project. The forty-five cemeteries surveyed in the book range from the dam to Transylvania County, but the North Shore phenomenon receives the main focus—for good reason. It has had an impact on the region.
“It appears,” Jabbour states, “that western North Carolina has preserved the tradition of cemetery decoration more fully and tenaciously, and has given prominence to older features of the tradition, than some other Appalachian subregions.”
--by Rob Neufeld