Sometimes I think Americans forget what Memorial Day is all about. For so many of us, it’s about barbeques, pool parties, beer, and an excuse for fireworks. It’s not about any of those things. It’s about remembering everyone who died for our country. Their sacrifice for our freedom.
I noticed that the facebook chatter in my circle of friends this weekend was suspiciously devoid of any mention of Memorial Day or its meaning. I did a few searches and snagged a few pictures for this blog entry, but mostly things have been quiet. Sadly, we’re too busy with our barbeques and other plans to give it much thought.
Remembrance Day is celebrated in other parts of the world (Canada, Australia, UK, and others) on November 11, which corresponds to the American Veterans Day. But Veterans Day is not the same as Memorial Day. Memorial Day was created to honor men and women who died in service of the US Armed Forces. Veteran’s day is to honor everyone who is serving or who has served in the US Military. Veteran’s day occurs on the same date as Remembrance Day, which may be why there is such confusion between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
While Remembrance Day dates back to WW I, the idea of Memorial Day dates back to the US Civil War. Both the North and the South had separate post-Civil War memorial days which were later united to become a single date. In the 20th century this was extended to include those who died in the Armed Services for all wars and became Memorial Day as we know it now.
The first national observance of Memorial Day was May 30th, 1868. Flowers were placed on the grave markers for both Northern and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The Northern states called it “Decoration Day” in observance of the tradition of decorating grave markers of fallen soldiers. However, the Southern states had already established a Confederate Memorial Day to honor their fallen soldiers as early as 1866. The Confederate Memorial Days were originally celebrated at different times of the year for each state, but they became unified by the end of WW I. The symbol of the poppy came about as a result of WW I as well. (I think I will save that story for Veterans/Remembrance Day.)
If you are an American reading this, I hope you can take a moment to sit back, close your eyes and give thanks to all the soldiers who have died in the service of this country.
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