Memorial Day is this coming Monday. What does Memorial Day mean to you? It is an official holiday that honors our military members that have died in battle. Memorial Day has a very long history, but surprisingly it has not been an official US Holiday as long as you would think. The day has meaning for many reasons some being the unofficial start of summer, school being finished or finishing soon, family gatherings, parades, and of course the intended purpose of honoring our fallen.
Memorial Day might have started right after the Civil War. It is thought that many towns across the country would gather and decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. This led to Gen. Logan calling for a Nationwide day of remembrance to be called Decoration Day. The date was to be May 30th of every year and it started in 1868. By 1890, all of the northern states had adopted this date. The south had other ways to honor their fallen. The Holiday was only to honor those fallen in the Civil War, but that changed after WWI. It was changed to honor the fallen from any war the US has had or been in.
The U.S. government decided in 1968 to have 4 federal holidays fall on a Monday. This would mean that Memorial Day would move from its traditional day of May 30th to the last Monday of May. This is where the name was changed from Decoration Day to the now common name of Memorial Day. Some things have not changed over the years. To this day many towns and cities have parades and celebrations to honor the fallen. It is also a time for many to gather at cemeteries and memorials to honor their own fallen or just the fallen in general. That is certainly a great idea as our freedoms are based on the shoulders of our fallen soldiers over the years.
Memorial Day also has a few other unofficial titles. Many consider it the start of Summer. This means that an estimated 35-40 million people will be traveling over 50 miles to celebrate the long weekend. That is a ton of cars on the road and that does not count the ones that are traveling shorter distances. It is safe to say the roads will be packed and it also the deadliest weekend for travelers. Some of that is just plain statistics and some of it is the feeling of safety since the weather is nicer. People tend to pay less attention when the road conditions are better.
Clearly Memorial Day is meant to celebrate our soldiers that have died in battle. They deserve that in every way as they have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. I would like to think that Memorial Day can be about much more though. It is a time of remembrance but can also be used to celebrate the living. The fallen have left a legacy of some sort, so why would those people not celebrate life to honor the dead. I think it is a great time for families to gather and enjoy each other’s company. Life is short, live it to the fullest!