Memorial Day brings U.S. Americans together for a day of reflection as we honor those who gave their lives for our freedom. First initiated to remember fallen Union soldiers, Memorial Day became a national holiday after World War I, honoring all who died while defending our nation and its values. Though historically a solemn holiday, 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.
- Invite a Veteran: Take the time to thank a veteran, invite them to your gathering, or take them to a meal early in the day. Show your appreciation year round by volunteering at the local VFW, or VA hospital.
- 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 everywhere) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom. Plan a pause in the festivities a few minutes before 3:00pm so that guests have time to settle down before sharing a moment of reverent silence.
- Remember the Reason: Before guests dive into the dip, thank them for joining your celebration and say a few words regarding the true holiday meaning. Recognize all veterans present and thank them for their sacrifice. While Memorial Day is a day of family fun, it’s important to remember those who gave their all.
- Ask Guests to Chip In: If you’re organizing a large gathering, and want to keep costs down, co-organizers can bring one item to share, such as hamburger buns, water bottles, fresh fruit, or ice cream sandwiches. With everyone contributing to the menu, you aren’t left with a hefty grocery receipt, can focus on organizing activities, and enjoy the day.
- Something for everyone: Include options for every guest, including those with special dietary needs, and kiddos who are picky eaters, so that no one’s celebrating on an empty stomach. Fruit and vegetable platters, gluten-free buns, grilled veggies for vegetarians, and dairy-free treats are good options for those accommodating special dietary needs. Avoid summer dehydration with iced tea, sugar-free lemonade for those who can’t drink soda, juice boxes for the kiddos, and plenty of water.
- Red Poppies: Save the red, white, and blue for the 4th of July and instead go bold. With a nod to history serve red poppy-themed desserts, such as poppy cupcakes or lemon poppyseed cake. Many bakeries prepare Memorial Day treats, so consider decorated red poppy cookies.
- Fun in the Sun: While the adults gather in the shade, the kids are ready to play! Set up a safe activity area with water soakers, and water balloons to stay cool. For the kids who enjoy sports, have a basket of soccer balls, jump ropes, and volleyballs handy.
As we celebrate Memorial Day, let’s honor those who gave their all and enjoy the company of family and friends. From all of us at Access to Culture, we wish you and yours a meaningful Memorial Day!
Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Access to Culture. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn.