Today is Memorial Day. Most people I know use this weekend as a kickoff to summer, getting outdoors with picnics and going camping. But the purpose of the holiday is to pay our respects to those who have died for this country.
The actual origin of Memorial Day is a bit murky. There are people who believe it started when a group of women decorated the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers from the battle of Shiloh in Mississippi. Others believe it started in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Georgia, Virginia…the list goes on and on with about 25 places. One thing that all seem to agree on is that it began after the Civil War and was set in late May to allow for spring flowers to decorate the graves.
Officially, Memorial Day was born in Waterloo, New York because they had the foresight to close their businesses, fly the flags at half-staff, and put on a ceremony. It’s not to say those 25 or so other places don’t deserve to be the official birthplace, and I’m sure they’re all right in their own way. Ideas seem to float around in the human consciousness, and often many people will have the same idea at about the same time. (This happens in Hollywood development a lot. I think the most recent example is Snow White and the Huntsman vs. Mirror Mirror.)
After World War I, Memorial Day (also known as Decoration Day) was expanded to honor all those who have died in American wars, but it didn’t become a national holiday until 1971. At that time, the government set its recurrence on the last Monday of May and closed businesses nationwide. (Except stores, those mattress guys do crazy deals on Memorial Day weekend.)
It’s good that we have a day to reflect and honor those who have died for our country. I’m sure most of them would have preferred to live a long, happy life in a peaceful world without war.
Maybe we can all honor their memory best by trying to get along with each other a little better.