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. On Memorial Day, people often visit cemeteries and memorials, usually leaving flags on grave sites. A national moment of remembrance is held at 3:00 p.m. local time. While the specific origin of Memorial Day remains unclear, cleaning cemeteries and decorating grave sites has been a tradition for centuries. Learn a little more about this special holiday.
A Brief History…
In pre-Civil War America, a common family reunion or picnic tradition was cleaning and decorating grave sites. Following the war, the U.S. felt the need for a patriotic ceremony to honor fallen soldiers, prompting monuments dedicated in memory of fallen heroes and the country coming together in their honor. After World War I, this patriotic day became a holiday to remember Americans who have died in all wars. In the past, different states observed the holiday on different dates, but in 1971 Congress made Memorial Day a national holiday, celebrated each year on the last Monday of May. The history of Memorial Day always includes its symbol: the poppy.
Memorial Day Poppy
During World War I the battlefields were destroyed by all the fighting, 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 refers to the “poppy red,” and it soon became tradition to wear a single red poppy on one’s clothing to remember the fallen, with Michael earning 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 will still carry physical or psychological injuries the rest of their lives.
Memorial Day is a great day to celebrate 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. Summer Solstice kicks off the summer season in June, but many people mark the beginning of summer with Memorial Day weekend festivities outdoors. According to AAA, over 40 million Americans normally begin their travels for annual summer vacations around Memorial Day. This year will be a bit different as we have been experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, but many businesses are expected to open up by the holiday weekend. If you and your family decide to travel this year, be sure to follow any guidelines put in place by the city and state you are visiting. If you are still quarantining, there are plenty of ways to celebrate this year. A family cookout in the backyard or picnic in an open park (a safe distance from others) provides a great way to spend time outdoors with family and soak up some sun. 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.