As Memorial Day approaches once again, we want to encourage you to take some time to reflect on the meaning of this holiday. This last Monday in May has been reserved to honor those from our Armed Forces who died while serving our country. Since the Revolutionary War these brave men and women sacrificed themselves in order to give this great country the chance to flourish. In times of need they rose up again, to protect and serve with pride and valor. There are many ways to recognize the signs and rituals associated with this day, and we want to offer ways to celebrate and honor these brave soldiers who paid with their lives.
Memorial Day, or “Decoration Day” as it was once popularly known, can be traced to the similar traditions of families and communities across the nation getting together in the spring to clean-up cemeteries. Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina all have historic records from the late 1860’s showing that the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers alike were cared for in this manner. By 1869 over 300 cemeteries were participating in this ritual for deceased soldiers.
Perhaps the most visible sign today is that of the American Flag. It is raised to full staff at the beginning of the day, then immediately lowered to half-staff until noon, Boys Scouts also traditionally placed small individual flags on veterans graves at their local cemeteries. A somewhat lesser known symbol is the poppy flower. Popularized by a poem “In Flanders Fields” during World War I, the poppy serves as a symbol of remembrance for men and women killed in conflict. The poem implores the living to carry on the cause. In the more recent past, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which asks that America pauses at 3PM on Memorial Day to reflect on the meaning of the day. There are also usually parades held around the country (although many have been postponed or cancelled this year). In recent years, the National Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol has been televised for all to enjoy.
We have composed a list below of additional ways to honor and acknowledge the day while staying at home. It is our hope that you will find some of these suggestions useful as Memorial Day approaches this year. We encourage you to have fresh insight into the value of this day, and perhaps to find new ways to celebrate.