One of the more somber American holidays, Memorial Day, is also one of the best times to get together as a family. This annual day of remembrance is on the last Monday of May. It honors those who have died while serving in the U.S. military.
It was first celebrated as Decoration Day and held in 1868. For over a hundred years, the commemorations were sporadic but incredibly popular. It seemed every town in America did something in late spring to remember fallen soldiers.
For many families, Memorial Day also signifies the unofficial start of summer.
History of Memorial Day
No one knows for sure how this tradition to remember our soldiers got started. At some point after the Civil War, when so many Americans were killed, towns and cities all over the country wanted to commemorate that loss.
It is believed that these communities began memorial ceremonies organically. Independently, and on their own, they wanted residents to get together and show gratitude for soldiers and their sacrifice.
Recently it was discovered that one of the first Memorial Day commemorations “was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina.” This happened just a few weeks after the Civil War ended.
Nonetheless, the federal government declared the birthplace of this holiday to be Waterloo, New York, where businesses officially closed, parades were held and flags were put on the graves of Union soldiers.
To Remember With Your Family on Memorial Day
For many families, Memorial Day is also a day off. No work or school. These are some of the most popular ways to spend the day:
- Cookouts and Barbecues
- Trips to parks, beaches and public gardens
- Pool parties
Many parents believe it’s their duty to remember the reason behind Memorial Day. A good opportunity to teach our children that we have the responsibility to say thank you as a nation. Moms and dads want to recognize the ultimate sacrifice our soldiers made before having fun with the family at the beach or barbecues.
Some ways to honor Memorial Day
- Watch a movie about soldiers or the military that resonates with you and your loved ones. There are plenty of options. Be sure to check the ratings. Recommendations can also be found on Common Sense Media.
- Attend a local parade or town event.
- Erect a flag in front of your home or attach it to your garage.
- Stop and reflect at 3pm (local time) on Monday for one minute of silent reflection.
- Call a local veterans organization or veterans hospital. They often have volunteer opportunities all year, but especially around Memorial Day.
- Most assisted living facilities and nursing homes welcome families who want to visit with veterans. For instance, you and your children can read books with them. Or maybe just sit quietly and share stories.
- Veterans groups such as Veterans of Foreign Wars sell poppies, for a nominal fee, that you and your family can wear on Monday. The money helps fund rehabilitation facilities for veterans.
- Call any local military cemetery. They often have early morning Memorial Day ceremonies to attend with your family. Local lawmakers and other notable officials attend. Military bands play taps and theme songs for all branches of our military. After the ceremony, visitors walk the grounds and quietly give thanks to those buried there. Typically, the Boy Scouts spend hours the night before erecting small flags on each grave, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. It’s quite a sight.
No matter how you choose to commemorate with your family, everyone here at KidzToPros wishes you a safe and healthy Memorial Day.