As school districts ring their final bell and children anticipate summer camp and swim lessons – let’s remember the true roots of our U.S. American Memorial Day on May 30th this year.
Memorial Day was originally called ‘Decoration Day’ because flowers, flags and floral wreaths were put on the graves of those who died in service to the U.S.A. It was first widely observed in 1868 in recognition of Civil War soldiers, promoted by General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans. The first U.S. celebration occurred at Arlington National Cemetery after former Union General and Ohio Congressman James Garfield gave a speech and 5,000 people decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington.
After World War I, Memorial Day became an occasion for honoring all who died while defending our nation and its values. It’s an annual national holiday occurring the fourth Monday in May, allowing people to enjoy a 3-day weekend. Memorial Day weekend also signals the start of summer vacation season with family and friends. Consider these celebration tips to acknowledge history and incorporate respect for our fallen in an authentic, yet contemporary, recognition of Memorial Day.
Remember the Roots
Memorial Day’s predecessor, ‘Decoration Day,’ was honored by the decoration of Arlington graves with a flag, flower or candle. It was also honored by wearing a red poppy, the idea and work of Ms. Moina Belle Michael. Poppies, candles and flags are commonly displayed in communities across the country at barbecues and pool parties, why not yours?
Celebrate the Present by Inviting Military or Veterans
Honor Memorial Day in a way that resonates with your tribe. Invite veterans or military to your event – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Reserve time to play Taps and have a moment of silence with your guests. Support a local military parade. Write letters to veterans with your children. Volunteer at your local VA. Provide red poppy party favors to honor the day.
National Moment of Remembrance
The National Moment of Remembrance was created by President William Clinton to observe a full minute of silence at 3:00 pm (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all. Whether you listen to taps, have a moment of silence, visit a graveyard, museum, or monument, take the time to salute those who gave their all.
Visit a Museum or Monument
Memorial Day is the perfect time to look into special events at a local museum or monument honoring those who have defended our country. For example, Washington D.C. is home to the country’s largest parade on this weekend. Arlington National Cemetery provides roses for visitors to place on graves as they pay their respects. Local museums may have extended hours.
Spread the Word
Now that you have acknowledged the roots of the holiday, share this with friends and family. Thank a veteran or servicemember today. Post on social media, create an environment that celebrates in an authentic way and educates those around you on the true meaning of the last Monday in May.
Above all this Memorial Day, strive to be grateful for our freedom and loved ones. Many have served for our freedom and expressing gratitude this Memorial Day weekend honors them and their sacrifices.
Enjoy your weekend! Please share below your ideas or plans for an authentic Memorial Day.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is a regular on-air contributor and has been quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, Inc., The New York Times, The Vancouver Sun, The Bangkok Post and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, which was named to the Best Books of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews.