It is the last Monday of May which means that it is Memorial Day. I certainly hope that you are having a restful, memorable and fun day. Of course, people most commonly associate Memorial Day Weekend with the unofficial start of summer and everything that goes with it. Barbecues, day drinking, trips to the beach and (if you have the day off) sleeping in late are all part and parcel of the MDW package. And all of that is great.
But I hope you also take time to remember the original purpose of Memorial Day, which is to memorialize and honor soldiers of the armed services who gave their lives for the United States. In that way, Memorial Day is a distinct and separate tradition from Veteran’s Day, which honors all who served. Many living veterans will be quick to remind people that today is about those who never made it home from war.
Memorial Day originally began as Decoration Day in 1868. A group of Civil War Union Army veterans organized ceremonies in which they would lay flowers on the tombstones of their fallen comrades. Confederate veterans’ groups held similar ceremonies. In addition to the laying of flowers, speeches and invocations from politicians, clergymen and the like became common. As is the case with many holidays, various regional celebrations were celebrated at different times throughout the country before being consecrated into an official national holiday.
One of the most famous ceremonies took place in at Gettysburg National Park in 1913, the 50th anniversary of the famous battle. Veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies gathered together to remember lost friends and celebrate national unity. The names “Memorial Day” and “Decoration Day” were sometimes used interchangeably over the years; it was not until after World War II that “Memorial Day” gained permanence. In 1968, Congress designated the day officially as taking place on the last Monday of May.
Some believe that turning Memorial Day into a permanent three-day weekend holiday has contributed to people taking the intended purpose less seriously, as it has become more of a celebration of the long weekend.
Memorial Day parades are one of the most popular events to attend. Towns and cities across the country will have veteran’s and other civic groups march through the main streets. It’s a classic picture of Americana.
For others in coastal regions, going to the beach is a popular choice. With the weather gradually turning into full-on summer, MDW is one of the most popular beach weekends of the year. Just be sure to watch out for traffic.
Enjoy the rest of the holiday!
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