Memorial Day in America...an official holiday that always falls on the last Monday in May. It's a three day holiday week-end that most of us associate with parades,picnics and trips to the beach It marks the official start of the summer vacation season.
But it isn't the start of summer that we are memorializing. It is the end of a bloody civil war and the coming together of a divided nation that we celebrate as well as the sacrifice made by those who died on both sides.
Originally called Decoration Day, the first official observance of the holiday was in 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetary. By 1890 the holiday was well established in both the North and South and was celebrated on May 30th. After World War I, the name was changed to Memorial day and the holiday was expanded to include remembrance of all fallen American soldiers. In the 1970's Memorial Day became a movable feast. The date was changed from May 30th to the last Monday in May so that everybody could get a long week-end. I'm not sure that was such a good idea. It surely changed the emphasis of the holiday from soldiers to summer.
In the small town where I live there will be a traditional Memorial Day parade, complete with a wreath laying at the WWII monument near the town hall. There will be flags and bands and in the two local cemetaries small American flags will have been placed on the graves of Veterans. I like that. I like that at least in one small American town, we remember that Memorial Day is about more than the beach. It's about war and peace and the respect we owe to all those who have died in battle, both victor and vanquished.
Happy Memorial Day everyone.