Remembrance, Camping, Cookouts and Travel—All Part of the American Holiday
Memorial Day lands on Monday, May 31st this year. The much-anticipated and traditional start of the summer season of vacations, outdoor holidays, and weekend cookouts is also a day to remember those who lost their lives while serving our country and protecting our freedoms. We honor our fallen by watching or participating in parades and attending ceremonies at cemeteries across the nation. Banks and government offices close and we do without mail delivery. Except for retail stores and businesses, most companies close their doors for this day. Memorial Day is also a celebration of freedom.
Warmer weather has arrived for most of the country and as Americans, we love to take our celebrations outdoors. From now until Labor Day, we’ll bask in the sun, go to farmer’s markets, town picnics, graduation parties, take the family camping, and invite our friends and families over for a cookout over the grill in the back yard followed by a bonfire and roasted marshmallows.
With a three-day weekend ahead, many people don’t make plans to take off for the whole weekend. They’ll visit busy home centers and garden centers to stock up on flower and vegetable plants, landscaping supplies, and probably a new power tool. The long weekend gives us time to accomplish all the chores we’ve put aside over the winter. Lawns need fertilizer and probably some weed deterrent. We’re cutting grass and planting flower beds or a putting in the vegetable garden. Time to clean up, spruce up, and generally put winter away for the warm season ahead.
Watching a parade with the kids on Monday will still leave time to finish up some of those jobs around the house and make it to the picnic or backyard Bar-B-Que, take in a craft fair or outdoor sidewalk sale, or just sit back and relax with something cool to drink.
Annually, almost 50 million people report going camping at least once during the year. Most people do their camping in the spring and summer, but fall is a close second. Hardcore enthusiasts are undeterred by cold weather and will camp year around.
Whether your camping style is a rustic and remote streamside campsite away from roads and maybe even trails, or an RV with all the amenities and conveniences of home, getting away from it all is a favorite way to relax over the summer.
Memorial Day packs the roads with weekenders looking to escape the crowds and find some peace and solitude, or at least some time in the outdoors without your neighbor’s lawnmower shattering the silence. Take the kids fishing or canoeing, spend some time boating or maybe waterskiing or tubing. Whatever your favorite way to relax and have fun, enjoy it safely. Traveling early ahead of the crowds or waiting until they’ve dispersed makes the trip less stressful and you to get to start and end on a good note.
Memorial Day Facts
Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 PM on Memorial Day. It asks all Americans to pause in their celebrations for one minute to join with all other Americans in a moment of national unity.
Memorial Day honors those who died while fighting for the country. Veterans Day honors and thanks all who served honorably in our armed services, particularly those still living.
Planning to fly the flag on Memorial Day? Fly the flag at half-staff until noon, then raise it to full staff for the rest of the day until sunset.
Memorial Day began after the Civil War and originated when women and families began decorating the graves of fallen civil war soldiers from both sides of the conflict. Waterloo, New York was formally recognized by the United States Congress as having the first official Memorial Day community service.
At first it was known as Decoration Day because people left decorations flowers and wreaths at soldier’s graves and cleaned them up or planted new grass. People started using the name “Memorial Day” in 1882, but it wasn’t until congress passed a law in 1967 that recognized the name of the day as Memorial Day.
“Taps” is a bugle melody or call played at all military memorial services. It came about when Civil War General Dan Butterfield decided that the usual “Lights Out” call at the end of the day was inappropriate for a burial and worked with the company bugler to make changes. The result was Taps. During the Civil War, it was sometimes played in place of a three-shot volley over a grave out of fear that it might trigger a new battle.
Poppies flourished after World War I because the disturbed earth allowed them to grow from seeds that lay dormant in the soil. John McCrea wrote a poem called “Flanders Fields” which inspired the Memorial Day custom of wearing red poppies.
Updated May 25. 2021