During the early nineteenth century, yellow fever and cholera were running rampant throughout the U.S.
At the same time, children were passing away before reaching the ripe age of ten; meanwhile, women were constantly dying during childbirth.
So, since countless people were surrounded by death on a daily basis, spending time in cemeteries allowed many to feel closer to their passed loved ones.
And what better way to honor them than by “talking” and sharing a meal?
The fact that the rural cemetery movement had taken hold during this period also helped the cemetery-picnic trend.
Before, American graveyards had primarily been on Church grounds; but the newer cemeteries were not located within city centers and were designed to resemble gardens.
In other words, people were actually able to relax and feel at peace while being surrounded by flowers rather than memento mori, such as crossbones or skulls.
And even though a significant portion of the American population thought the act was a “gruesome festivity,” dining in graveyards was not solely a United States practice.
In fact, people throughout Asia, Greece, and Guatemala also believe that eating with ancestors is a sentimental and respectful activity.
Nonetheless, during the 1920s, this trend in the United States did begin to diminish. By that period, advancements in medicine made death less of a common occurrence.
Similarly, the creation of public parks gave community members other outlets to socialize and dine.