Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Musings

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.

10 comments:

Harold's Daughter said...

Sadly, most American holidays have been turned into something they were never intended to be. Memorial Day should've remained on the 30th. If it happened to fall on a Friday or Sat, fine. If not, then it'd be the Day of Remembrance it's supposed to be, not the unofficial start of summer. Hurray for your town for staying on message.

JamaGenie said...

I totally agree, HD!

pinkpackrat said...

Well, moving it from May 30th to the last Monday in May changed the emphasis for sure--and I must say the three day week-end is nice, but let's just not forget what the holiday is really about.

Scout's Honor said...

Yep, I agree with the other comments. what is sad is I heard a blogger ranting the other day about Memorial day being a stupid, f*^$%ing holiday. This is a blogger I like. I was so pissed off. My generation simply does not realize the sacrifice involved in serving one's country and, yes, dying, so that we all may be free. They get fat on America's freedoms, but never give back.

Sigh.

I guess I shouldn't get started...

JamaGenie said...

Sounds like somebody who's scheduled to work when they planned to be enjoying the "stupid, f*^$ing holiday" instead!

Kristen said...

And for these reasons, I hope they never make 9/11 a holiday in my lifetime. Instead of a day of remembrance it will turn into a 40% off sale at Macy's.

JamaGenie said...

Oh, what a horrible thought. But why are we not equally repulsed that the day we should be honoring thousands of fallen soldiers is the tailend of a 3-day sun and swim fest interrupted by trips to the mall? Perhaps because 9/11 is still fresh in our minds and the Civil War and two World wars aren't?

pinkpackrat said...

Right on Scout, Jama and Kristen-- great comments and I agree totally.

adam said...

I loved your beautiful tribute to all individuals who have died that we could live and enjoy this wonderful freedom...thank you!

pinkpackrat said...

Thank you Adam. I think too often we forget the sacrifices others have made for us.... thank you for remembering:-)