Plan Your Epitaph Day is celebrated on April 6 or November 2 every year. It’s a time for you to face what you’ve been running away from all your life: describing yourself in a few words! This morbid but fun holiday is a pleasant way to accept the inevitable end to every human’s journey. Every culture around the world has its traditions and customs of dealing with death. All these customs are designed to help us handle the inescapable cycle of birth and mortality.
History of Plan Your Epitaph Day
Death is a certainty. Everyone who is born into this world must die one day, but what matters, in the end, is our lives and our stories. Writing an epitaph is a way to tell our story to the world. Plan Your Epitaph Day allows us to say our last words to the world we will leave behind.
Believed to be created by Lance Hardie, Plan Your Epitaph Day came into existence in 1995. The idea behind it was to give people the chance to write their epitaphs. These last few words could tell us a lot about the person who lies in the grave.
The history of epitaphs dates back to the ancient Egyptians, though these epitaphs differed in their style of delivery. The ancient Greeks used the emotive expression, written in elegiac verse, and the Ancient Romans typically detailed the facts of the deceased, which was similar to the earliest epitaphs in English churches.
The words written on your epitaph will remain engraved in people’s minds. There have been some great epitaphs written, such as the last words of Spike Milligan, “I told you I was ill,” still making you chuckle from the grave; others account for the achievements of the deceased: Ludolph van Ceulen had the first 35 digits of Pi inscribed on his tombstone, being the first to calculate this number out to that many decimals, though this wasn’t why he died!
One should carefully consider the content of one’s epitaph, as it will stay with you for as long as your headstone survives. Your epitaph is a reflection of who you are and what you want others to know about you, so make sure it is an interesting one that people will remember for a long time.
Plan Your Epitaph Day timeline
In the mid-14th century, the word 'epitaph,' meaning 'inscription on a tomb or monument,' makes its first appearance in English.
Writing of epitaph verses becomes a trade by the end of the 16th century.
Igor Stravinsky composes the Epitaphium for flute, clarinet, and harp.
A spacecraft bearing the ashes and epitaph of scientist Eugene Shoemaker is carried to the Moon on July 31, 1999, making him the first and only man to be buried on the moon.
Plan Your Epitaph Day FAQs
How do you write an epitaph?
Write the correctly spelled full name of the person, their birth and death dates, and a short quote or Bible verse that captures their virtue.
What does the Seikilos epitaph mean?
Seikilos Epitaph is the oldest known song from 200 B.C. It was found on a tombstone and roughly translates to: “While you live, be happy.”
How long should an epitaph be?
Many epitaphs are just one or two lines long. This gives you a chance to sum up a person’s life in just a few words, and express emotions.
What do pennies on a grave mean?
In the military cemeteries, a coin that is left on a headstone lets the deceased soldier’s family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respects. A penny means you visited. If you leave a nickel that means you and the deceased soldier trained at boot camp together.
Plan Your Epitaph Day Activities
Visit a graveyard
Go to a cemetery near you. Read some of the inscriptions on the tombstones for inspiration to coin your epitaph. You can even search for epitaphs on the internet and read up on the famous ones to get some ideas.
Go for a picnic
Organize a picnic in a graveyard with like-minded friends. Take this opportunity to share ideas on what your last words would be. Another fun thing to do would be grave rubbings, which can be a great way to collect epitaphs that have already been written, to help the flow of ideas.
Write your epitaph
The last thing to do is write your epitaph (pun intended). Write whatever best describes you. And even if you can’t get it right the first time, you will have many more opportunities to do so in the future; inspiration can strike anytime.
5 Eerie Facts About Epitaphs
Gravestones reveal wealth
The type of stone that is used for a gravestone can reveal wealth or military affiliation
Carved motifs on gravestones have meaning
Hourglass indicates time stopping for the dead — a broken flower symbolizes a life cut short.
The Laudatio Turiae, an Ancient Roman epitaph with 180 lines, celebrates the virtues of an honored wife
The American Fraternal Insurance Company would offer widows $100 and a free gravestone if they agreed to have the company's logo (WOW) put on their gravestone.
Carved figures of animals carry meaning
Lambs are carved on the gravestones of children — carved figurines of family dogs are sometimes found atop their owners' graves.
Why We Love Plan Your Epitaph Day
Time to reflect
This day gives us a chance to reflect on our mortality. While we continue to live through the memories of our loved ones and our friends, an epitaph is our final message to the world, and a legacy we leave behind for those who come after us. So reflect on what you’d like to say that would make your epitaph worth reading.
Remembering the dead
Reading the epitaphs of the ones who have passed away doesn’t just offer inspiration and advice but can also be a good way to remember them. Their existence is once again acknowledged, as thoughts of them cross your mind, even if they were a stranger to you.
Appreciating life through an epitaph
Like life, death can also be a great learning experience. It teaches us that nothing is permanent — life, happiness, sorrow, pain, or joy. While writing an epitaph, you get to realize how precious life is; you realize it is meant to be lived. So live a life that not only inspires a good epitaph but also becomes an inspiration to many.
Plan Your Epitaph Day dates