Cemetery Explains Decision to Remove Decorations From Graves

Lynchburg, VA - Christmas decorations disappeared from several graves at the Spring Hill Cemetery earlier this month.

At least one Lynchburg family is upset, while the cemetery says it's just enforcing a long-standing policy.

The Spring Hill Cemetery says they've had the policy for several years -- no Christmas decorations are allowed except for wreaths, flowers or potted plants.

They've typically been relaxed on that rule, but after a series of complaints that some of the decorations were excessive, they felt they had to remove them all.

When the Barbatos decorate for Christmas, they go all out and even relatives who have passed on take part.

"My mom had a snowman on this side for my grandfather, a snow girl on this side for my grandmother and then a Christmas tree on the back," Lahoma Barbato said, pointing to her grandparents' grave.

You can probably imagine the anger two weeks ago, when her mother discovered the Christmas decorations she's been leaving on their grave were gone.

As it turns out, the superintendent of the cemetery says they removed them along with at least 100 other unauthorized decorations.

"We've had everything from pinwheels to solar lights to Santa Claus's and bunny rabbits," Eames Powers explained.

He says they enforced the policy after several grave owners complained that some decorations were over the top and offensive.

"My mom and dad, my uncles and aunts pay a lot of money for my granny and grandpa's grave and you can't even decorate it the way you want to," Barbato said.

"You have to, I think, weigh carefully as to the overall appearance of the cemetery as opposed to one's individual preference," the superintendent explained.

The cemetery returned the decorations to the Barbato family, but they're still not happy.

"Christmas, holidays, birthdays you want to come here and remember them," said Barbato.

The Barbatos wish they were reminded of the rules sooner. The cemetery admits they didn't send out warning letters because notifying families of the roughly 25,000 people buried there would have been nearly impossible. They're holding onto all the confiscated items for the next 60 days. Families can stop by during cemetery hours to pick them up.