History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2020 falls on Monday, May 25, when we will honor the men and women who have died fighting for our country’s freedom. Oftentimes, on Memorial Day, people will visit cemeteries and memorials, with many visitors placing flags on grave sites. A national moment of remembrance is held at 3:00 p.m. local time. The specific origin of Memorial Day remains unclear, but cleaning cemeteries and decorating grave sites has been a tradition for centuries. Here is a brief history of Memorial Day.

History of Memorial Day

In pre-Civil War America, cleaning and decorating grave sites was an occasion for family reunions and picnics during the summer. But after the war, the U.S. needed a patriotic ceremony to honor fallen soldiers. This is where monuments were produced and dedicated in memory of fallen heroes and the country came together in their honor. Following World War I, this patriotic day became a memorial to Americans who have died in all wars. In the past, states were observing the holiday on different dates, but in 1971 Congress made Memorial Day a national holiday, celebrated each year on the last Monday of the month of May. The history of Memorial Day always includes its symbol: the poppy.

Symbolic Poppy

The brutal fighting of World War I destroyed battlefields in Europe, and the red field poppy was the first plant to grow back once the ground had been disturbed. Just days before the war officially ended in November 1918, American professor Moina Michael composed the poem “We Shall Keep the Faith.” In it, she wrote about wearing the “poppy red,” and thus became the tradition of wearing a single red poppy on one’s clothing to remember the fallen. Michael earned herself the title of “the Poppy Lady.” In the U.S. today, the poppy symbolizes all veterans, both living (on Veteran’s Day) and deceased. The symbol was also quickly adopted by other allied nations, such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, where Remembrance Day is celebrated on November 11. Along with remembering the fallen, the poppy also signifies recovery and new life, supporting servicemen who survived war but were seriously injured physically or psychologically.

Celebrating Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a great day to be thankful for family and friends, those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom are the reason we can spend the day with whomever we love and choose. While the actual summer season begins with Summer Solstice in June, many people mark the beginning of summer with Memorial Day weekend bashes outdoors. According to AAA, over 40 million Americans normally hit the road for their annual summer vacations around Memorial Day. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are expected to open up by the holiday weekend. If you and your family are able to travel this year, be sure to follow any guidelines put in place by the city and state you are visiting. If you are unable to travel, there are plenty of ways to celebrate this year. A family cookout in the backyard or picnic in an open park would be a great way to spend time outdoors with family and get a chance to soak in the nice weather. If you have a pool at home, that is the perfect place to spend time celebrating the holiday if the weather permits. If you are looking for a project to celebrate the holiday, get your family together to make care packages for troops overseas. Many organizations offer help sending packages and getting them to servicemen and women who need the materials, even if the sender does not know them personally. For a great website listing do’s and don’ts for create care packages to send overseas, click here.

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