On May 27, one of the most emblematic American holidays will be celebrated: Memorial Day. We have some advice for your Memorial Day celebration, but before that, let’s talk about two things some people might not know:
Why is Memorial Day celebrated?
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize exactly why is Memorial Day celebrated, they just welcome the extra day of rest, the possibility of traveling and enjoying some quality time with the ones they love. However, the truth is this holiday was created for us to remember and acknowledge our American fellows in the military forces that died serving our country. That’s why Memorial Day is celebrated; for us to get a moment to be thankful and honor the life of those that voluntarily fought for our freedom.
It is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day, which is a celebration of all militaries, dead or alive.
When did Memorial Day start?
Officially, it’s easy to answer when did Memorial Day start: in 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential holiday proclamation. However, in a broader sense it’s difficult to answer exactly when did Memorial Day start, because even a century before that, Americans would gather in cemeteries on May 30th to decorate the “fallen heroes” graves with flowers.
In 1968, to create a convenient 3-day weekend, it was determined that there would be no longer an exact date for the holiday, and Memorial Day got pushed to the last Monday of every May.
Ok, having said that, there’s a lot of tension between people that know and doesn’t know that. The first feels it’s disrespectful of the latter to celebrate instead of mourn. That people should visit cemeteries to decorate soldier’s graves with flowers and that’s it.
However, that’s not right or wrong; it’s a personal stance. If those heroes fought for our freedom, they fought for our right to enjoy life and that means the occasional barbeque with friends and families gathering. In a way, doing that is celebrating their lives too. Plus, May 28 is National Burger Day, so, at least this year, they all have this excuse of also celebrating burgers…
So, our first advice is to, regardless of what you plan, take a moment to collectively acknowledge the reason why you have that time of enjoyment and rest. Directly – because of a holiday created to honor those brave people’s sacrifice – and indirectly – because their service is what kept America free and allowed you to be here celebrating the way you want. Have a moment of silence, propose a toast, explain to the children the meaning of Memorial Day.
Want to go the extra mile? You can gather the family and write a letter to a soldier thanking him/her for their service and put it inside a care package to be sent out to one soldier who’s actively on duty. It can be a great educational family activity. Head over to www.supportourtroops.org to know how to do it and thank you for that!
Now, if you want to go the extra league (instead of mile), you can go on a pilgrimage to the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Controlled by the United States Department of the Army, part of the Department of Defense, it hosts the graves of more than 400,000 deceased soldiers for every war the US has been a part of ever since the Civil War, plus Arlington is also the resting place of Presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, so it makes for great history lessons to kids too.
During Memorial Day weekend, a lot of events take place throughout the 624 acres of the cemetery. But the Tomb of the Unknowns and its fascinating changing of the guard is a must-see if you decide to go there on May 28. Guarded 24/7, all year, regardless of weather conditions, the Tombs of the Unknown is a monument for 4 unknown soldiers – one from the World War I, one from the World War II, one from the Korean War and the last from Vietnam War (which was later discovered to be Lt. Michael J. Blassie. It is the perfect embodiment of Memorial Day: even though we don’t know exactly who they are, it doesn’t mean those fallen heroes are not recognized and celebrated by all of us.