Why do people say, “Happy Memorial Day”??
Yes, we’re getting a three-day holiday, but it seems to me that we’ve totally forgotten the meaning behind this day.
Memorial Day is not a “happy” occasion. It’s a somber observance.
Once upon a time, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. It was a day set apart to recognize those brave individuals who gave their lives in the service of our country.
I can remember my dad, who grew up in the Deep South, talking about how, as a boy, he went to the cemetery with his mother each Memorial Day. He said the ladies of the region always decorated the graves then. They put out real flowers (not those plastic things you buy today at Wally-world!), cleaned up the weeds, and so on. It was a big deal.
Today, Memorial Day is more noted for being the official start of summer. Kids get out of school; swimming pools open; golf courses are full; grills come out of storage, and grocery stores push the sales of barbecue sauce, chips, soda, and beer.
Not so long ago, Memorial Day was observed on May 30. Not May 25; not May 31. May 30th. That meant you got a holiday in the middle of the week sometimes. Cool!
But in 1971, Congress changed the official holiday observance to the last Monday in May (giving workers a three-day break). That’s nice, I guess, but some fear it’s contributed to a lackadaisical attitude about Memorial Day.
My town, like many others, doesn’t hold a parade on that holiday. Few people know Flag etiquette, and cemeteries now have caretakers (paid or volunteer) to tend the graves.
To counteract ignorance about the significance of the holiday, the government in 2000 authorized a National Moment of Remembrance. People were supposed to stop what they were doing at 3 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day and reflect for 60 seconds on the sacrifices others made so we might all be free.
Good idea, but I confess I didn’t even know about it until I was doing research for this blog! So that didn’t go over big, did it?
Some now are advocating a return to the traditional May 30 date to observe Memorial Day. I’m with them.
With all the distractions of picnics, bargain-hunting, and outdoors-enjoying, the remembrance and the mourning are tossed aside. And lest anyone forget, we are still losing young men and women to war. We are still fighting to keep our freedoms.
As one Pennsylvania man so aptly put it, it’s because of what Memorial Day represents that the rest of the days of each year are our holidays.