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Grave Games

Hungarian gravediggers’ ‘best grave’ contest defies death taboo

Death is a taboo we don’t like to talk about, as it seems too personal, terrifying, and macabre. But Hungarian gravediggers see nothing morbid about it, and dig the subject out into the open with a national grave-digging competition.

The sturdy men race to dig a perfect burial plot as quickly as possible. Over a dozen two-man teams are judged on the neatness, technique, and speed of their shovel work. As in any contest, the dig-off is not devoid of competitive spirit and showmanship.

The organizers from the Hungarian Undertakers’ Association hope the bizarre event will improve their craft’s public image and attract people to a profession that many look down upon. The participants’ demonstrate that it's a rewarding occupation requiring physical strength, as well as the emotional endurance and vigour to deal with death on a daily basis.

Though the gravediggers' contest might draw new recruits to their ranks, can it challenge our approach to death and dying? A handful of spectators certainly signal a change is afoot.