Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day

Memorial Day in 2015 is not much like it was when I was young or at least how I remember it.  In our small hometown there is some resemblance, but even that has changed.  One sees real flowers here and there, but the cemetery is decorated these days with lots of plastic. I always try for natural flowers. One aunt said her mother would roll over in her grave if anyone placed plastic flowers on her grave.

As a kid, getting ready to decorate the graves was like a party. My mom, her cousin, my great-grandma and my great aunts went happily into their gardens looking for the best flowers to cut, bring into the house and arrange in bouquets.  Each year the bouquets were different depending on when spring came to our area. Some years the peonies were not even open yet. Other years they had bloomed and been gone for weeks. If everything went right, the peonies were perfect. Iris were favorite additions, but the tulips were usually gone.

Families still go to our small town cemetery, take flowers and honor those loved ones who have departed.  The cemetery has a nice program and displays what is called The Avenue of the Flags.
Sometimes the local high school band plays and the boy scouts help with the ceremony.

When I was a little girl, many people still called this day Decoration Day. It was observed on May 30 as opposed to the last Monday of May as it is today.  I didn't understand as a kid that it was a day to honor military men and women who had died while serving in the U.S. military. I thought it was the day to go to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of my family.

Reading about the history of Memorial Day has been interesting.  "It was officially proclaimed on 5 May, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No 11. 'The 30th of May, 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land' ".(

According to "On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there."

In 1971 congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971.  This gave a three day weekend for Federal holidays. I found an interesting bit of information that said several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the confederate war dead.

Does anyone remember the red poppies? My mother used to always have a red paper poppy attached to her purse around Memorial Day to show her respect to lost soldiers. In 1922, the VFW started to nationally sell poppies. More can be read about the origin of this commemoration  at This tradition still exists in some communities, but I don't know if my children or their children know anything about it.

On this same website I  learned about the National Moment of Remembrance for Memorial Day. "The Nation Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3:00 p.m. local time, for all Americans 'To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps' ".

Yesterday I went to the cemetery. These direct line ancestors you have been reading about on this blog all have real flowers decorating their graves now.

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