In 1971 the US government passed the National Holiday Act for the purpose of creating 3 day holidays. In that process many of our holidays may have lost their meaning. Today many folks are celebrating a day off of work, but are they taking a minute to reflect on why this is a holiday?
Memorial Day began just after the Civil War, to honor those who had fallen. It was originally called Decoration Day, and was a day for families to honor lost military, both Union and Confederate. Families decorated the graves of soldier’s with flowers that were in bloom. Until 1971 this holiday was May 30th every year.
My Grandma called it Decoration Day. She would gather peonies, irises and other flowers from her garden into wonderful bouquets. A trek would be taken to the local cemetery where the bouquets were placed on graves of family members who had gone before.
The rural town where I lived had an annual Memorial Day parade, on May 30th, whatever day of the week that fell on. I am no longer sure how big the parade was but know that it had both the junior and high school bands playing, even though school had been dismissed for the summer. The parade marched down Main street and up to the cemetery where there was a color guard and a ceremony that honored fallen military. It was a holiday tradition that we attended the parade and the ceremony.
I no longer live near a family cemetery, nor does my local town have a parade. In honor of memorial day I plan to look at ancestors in my family tree who have served the US military and take some time today to learn more about them, the battles they fought in and how they were part of history.
A new generation of soldiers are giving their lives in honor of their country and our freedoms. I hope that all of us will take a minute to reflect on the holiday and maybe take a minute or two to Google Memorial Day and find out a little more history about our national holiday. It should be much more than a day off of work.