This week we celebrated Memorial Day, the unofficial start to the New England summer.
We often associate Memorial Day with the weekend the pool gets opened, the first trip to the beach for the summer, a chance to cookout with family and friends, the green light to resume wearing white for the summer and, of course, three days without school or work. For my family it was a weekend filled with a Little League tournament and a trip to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox.
What struck me this weekend, however, is that many of us have also forgotten the real reason we celebrate Memorial Day. Sure, the parades and the cookouts are fun, but shouldn’t we take a little time to remind our kids what the holiday is really all about?
Originally named “Decoration Day,” Memorial Day first began in the years following the civil war as a means of honoring fallen soldiers. Officially declared as Memorial Day in 1868, it was first observed on May 30 when both Union and Confederate soldiers graves were decorated at Arlington National Cemetery. Northern States began to recognize the holiday almost immediately but many Southern States refused to acknowledge it until the World War I Era.
In 1915, inspired by the poem, “In Flanders Field” , a woman named Moina Michael began wearing red poppies to remember those who had died in the First World War. The tradition spread and eventually she began selling them in order to make money for servicemen in need.
Today, that tradition remains and The American Legion Auxiliary is well known for selling red poppies to help veterans around the country.
In 1971 Memorial Day was declared a “National Holiday” to be celebrated on the last Monday in May. Like many other holidays it was moved to a Monday in order to ensure a three day weekend for workers as well as students. While many agree with the decision, others argue that moving Memorial Day as well as other National Holidays to a Monday takes away from the true meaning of the day.
Whether that’s the case or not it seems to me that the best way to ensure that the tradition of Memorial Day remains intact is to take some time between cookouts and baseball games and simply remind ourselves and our children how lucky we are to be Americans.
Our kids need to know that thanks to the sacrifices our soldiers have made, we have the freedom to celebrate each and every holiday exactly how we choose. We, as Americans, owe so much to the soldiers who have lost their lives fighting for our freedom as well as those who continue to protect our nation.
Memorial Day 2012 may be behind us but the struggles and sacrifices that our troops make continue on each and every day.
My goal, as a mom, is to remind my son to be thankful for his freedom and for those who fight for it all year round not just on Memorial Day.