I wasn’t aware until this week that there’s some Christian tradition of burying people in an east-west orientation.
Example from http://frojel.hgo.se/Report1.html :
The results from the last years’ excavations are showing that we to a high degree succeeded to reach our goals, not at least when it comes to the question of the transition between paganism and Christianity in the area. In the schoolmaster’s yard, we investigated a part of a Christian churchyard from the earliest phase of Christianity. Altogether, we found some 40 skeletons, laying in narrow wooden coffins, and orientated in an east-west direction, with their heads in the west and their feet in the east, in line with the Christian customs. There was one exception from that. One of the persons was laying inversely, with her head in the east and her feet in the west.
I found other examples as well, but I couldn’t find an explanation of why it is or was customary. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03071a.htm mentions the practice but doesn’t fully explain WHY it was done.
Finally, I found a quote from Tom Kunesh in the article Sickness and Death in the Old South, which may or may not be credible:
Note that in Christianity, the star (of the Jewish astronomers from Iraq [Babylon]) comes from the east. Then there is Matthew 24:27 (NKJ): “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be …” thus for the Christian believer in the resurrection of the dead, placing the body facing east will allow the dead to see the Second Coming of Jesus.
Anyway, is the east-west burial thing still done? I don’t visit cemeteries much.