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What Does a Sunrise or Sunset Symbolize on Headstones?

This week’s cemetery symbols topic:

Just like several other cemetery symbols posts on my site, this one was inspired by graves I saw in Aurora, Texas. Today I’ll be answering the question: “What does a sunrise or sunset symbolize on a headstone?”

What does a sunrise or sunset represent on a headstone? (photo by Tui Snider)
What does a sunrise or sunset represent on a headstone? (photo by Tui Snider)

Is it a Sunrise or a Sunset?

When you see a sun on a headstone, the first thing you might wonder is, “Is this a sunrise? Or is this a sunset?” The answer is yes! And by ‘yes’ I”m not just being a wiseacre. What I mean is that this is a dual symbol. It actually represents both a sunrise and a sunset.

Of course, the person who requested it on their headstone might have leaned more towards one or the other. It’s a bit like the old, “Is the glass half-full or half-empty?” question. There’s no right answer.

What does a sunrise or sunset represent on a headstone? (photo by Tui Snider)
What does a sunrise or sunset represent on a headstone? (photo by Tui Snider)

Dual meaning of the sun

Considering that life on our planet depends upon the sun, it’s no wonder than so many ancient cultures worshiped it. Even today, in Christianity and other religions, the sun remains an important symbol.

As you can see from the photos in this post, just as there’s more than one symbolic meaning for the sun, there is more than one way to illustrate one on a headstone. Both of these sunrise/sunset carvings are at Aurora Cemetery, but they look quite different.

What does a sunrise or sunset symbolize?

As a cemetery symbol, the sun represents eternal life, as well as the eternal light of heaven. When you think of it as a sunset, it symbolizes the end of our earthly life. On the other hand, as a sunrise it also reminds us of the promise of new beginnings in the afterlife.

More historic cemetery symbols articles:

If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned for more posts in which I’ll share the meaning behind a different cemetery symbol, and/or an interesting historic graveyard monument or story. (I’ve even got a book coming out this year – hopefully by June!)  If you’d like to read more now, click here for: more historic cemetery symbols articles.

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Tui Snider

Tui Snider is an author, speaker, and photographer who specializes in quirky, haunted, and downright bizarre destinations. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction – but then, I moved to Texas!” Snider's writing and photography have been featured in a variety of publications, including Coast to Coast AM, FOX Travel News, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman Waking, Shades of Angels and more. Snider’s award-winning books include Paranormal Texas, The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber, and Unexpected Texas. Snider has several more books in progress, including a Field Guide to Cemetery Symbols and a book about the Great Texas Airship Mystery of 1897. Tui has worn a lot of hats in her life – literally – and is especially fond of berets. She enjoys connecting with writers and readers all over the globe through social media, her newsletter and her website: TuiSnider.com.
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Published inBlog PostsCemeteries & SymbolismHistoric Cemeteries

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