Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. What does this mean to you? A day off work? A parade? Speeches? A concert? Visiting a cemetery?

Originally called Decoration Day, this holiday began in 1865 to celebrate the Union soldiers, both black and white, who fought the Civil War. The celebrants, most of them freedmen, held a ceremony in a cemetery on May Day, to commemorate the dead. Flowers were laid on the graves of the soldiers.

Similar events were celebrated in cemeteries in the following years in the North. Michigan was the first to make is a state holiday and other states followed suit.

In the South, a separate tradition evolved, starting with Confederate Memorial Day, which ranged from April to mid-June.

The name was officially changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day in 1971.

When I was a child, in Illinois, my large extended family got together for outdoor eating and a trip to the graveyard to lay flowers on Grandpa's grave, and later on Grandma's.  My mother would gather an armful of her lush peonies and we'd brush off the ants and take them in a vase of water in the car. There were other relatives in the cemetery at Alpha, Illinois, but I hadn't known any of them and didn’t pay much attention. Today my mother and father rest there, as well as some of the other relatives I grew up knowing.

I was married during Viet Nam and spent thirteen months waiting for my new husband to come home. He had, by the luck of the draw, been sent to Korea instead of Nam, so he wasn't in the danger a lot of others were. While he was overseas, I worked civilian for the Army, and also participated in protest marches for that particular war. Sort of covered all the bases. Hey, it was a confusing time. I might not like the war, and I don't like most of them, but I can't hold it against the soldiers. When I see a injured soldier, it makes me angry that anyone ever has to fight in a war, and I wish no one ever had to again, but I know that won't ever happen as long as humans are humans.

For me, today, Memorial Day means remembering all my relatives who have passed away, as well as being a day to honor the soldiers who have fallen defending our country.

picture from wiki commons public domain


  1. I miss putting flowers on the graves back in Illinois. My cousin Cheryl, who never moved away, does it for all our relatives. I like knowing that someone is looking after the graves. The scattering of all my cousins is part of why I'm opting for cremation!