Happy Memorial Day Weekend! It’s the kickoff of the summer. The beaches, pools, and parks are officially open. Small town residents gather along the sidewalk as the local high school band marches down Main Street, playing “America the Beautiful.”
Our grills are dusted off for the first big cookout of the summer with families, neighbors, and friends. And weekend DIY-ers take advantage of the three day weekend to do home improvement projects, spruce up their yards and pretty up their patios.
And while we all love a reason to celebrate and get together, Memorial Day is more than the commencement of summer. It’s a day to remember and honor the men and women who have lost their lives in service to our country.
Memorial Day History
First known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day began after the American Civil War. It was a day designated to decorate the graves in honor of both the Confederate and the Union Soldiers killed in the war. After World War I the holiday expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.
Before the Civil War, in the South, distant relatives would travel on a specific day to gather at family cemeteries. They would decorate the graves and honor their ancestors. The event brought families together to celebrate with a religious service and a shared meal.
The origin of Memorial Day dates back to somewhere in the early 1860’s depending on the location. Various towns claimed to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. President Lyndon Johnson declared it to be Waterloo, NY on May 5,1866. By the end of the 1800’s, Memorial Day ceremonies were celebrated across the nation on May 30th. It is believed that the May 30th date was chosen because the flowers would be in bloom all over the country. In 1971, Congress declared the last Monday of May to be Memorial Day, a National Holiday.
A National Moment of Remembrance was enacted in December of 2000. It encourages Americans to spend a moment of silence at 3:00 pm local time to honor and remember members of the Armed Forces who have died in service.
When is Memorial Day?
In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed moving Memorial Day to the last Monday in May. (Thank you, Congress! We LOVE 3-day weekends!)
This year, Memorial Day celebrations will be on Monday, May 25, 2015.
If you’re planning ahead for vacations in the next few years, here are the dates:
- Monday, May 30, 2016
- Monday, May 29, 2017
- Monday, May 28, 2018
- Monday, May 27, 2019
- Monday, May 25, 2020
How to Celebrate Memorial Day
Fly the American Flag:
On Memorial Day the American flag should be flown at half staff until Noon and then at the top of the pole until sunset. (When the American Flag Should be Flown at Half Staff)
Observe a Moment of Silence:
Stop what you’re doing at 3:00 pm and take a moment to honor those who have died and be grateful for your freedom.
Decorate the Burial Sites of Loved Ones:
Whether you’ve lost loved ones in military service or not, visiting a cemetery to clean their burial sites and decorate them with flowers is a Memorial Day tradition in many families. It is an opportunity to remember those who have passed away and a nice way to share family history.
Attend a Small Town Parade:
The Memorial Day parade in our town is a ton of fun for the family. We love watching the marching bands. My favorite part is when the Precision Marching Lawn Chair Dads in their boxer shorts, socks and sandals do their lawn chair routine! The parade winds through town on its way to the cemetery where everyone gathers for a 21 gun salute and moment of silence.
Attend an Air Show:
We did this a few years ago. There is nothing like the experience of sound waves rumbling deep in your core as fighter jets fly in formation over you. Or the serene silence of paratroopers floating down through the sky. I couldn’t help but feel a tremendous amount of respect for our fierce Armed Forces.
Host a Memorial Day Cookout:
Gather your friends, neighbors, and family for a cookout, picnic or potluck! The freedom to enjoy family and friends in safety and peace is one of the blessings for which so many have given their lives.
However you plan to celebrate the day, let us not forget that freedom isn’t free. Please join us in taking a moment today to be grateful, as our Nation celebrates the lives of our fallen soldiers and the freedoms they fought to keep.