Even though our government declared Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, the birthplace of the holiday is not exactly known. Almost 100 years before its place of origin was declared, people all across the nation would gather to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. Cities across the country from Macon and Columbus, GA up to Charleston, SC and back south to Columbus, MS claim to be where Memorial Day observations began. What is known for sure is that Memorial Day started as Decoration Day after the Civil War ended. It wasn’t until 1971 that Memorial Day became the official name of the holiday so many of us celebrate.
Whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, there is meaning within a name. What do the words “decoration” and “memorial” mean to you? What differing emotions do they bring to the front of your mind? Subjectively, “decoration” can be felt as light and celebratory. On the other hand, “memorial” carries with it a sobering, reflective weight that may cause some to wonder what valiant person or impactful event necessitates remembering.
The change in name may have been needed, and we should all remember why Memorial Day is observed.
Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?
The last Monday in May isn’t about flags, politics, grilling or three-day weekends; it’s about honor and recognition. Memorial Day is a day meant for everyone to remember all the fallen soldiers that we’ll never be able to repay. It’s meant to honor and support those families of the fallen who we’ll never be able to fully console.
When days become holidays, over time, they have a tendency to become wrapped up in materialistic and self-serving ideals. For this holiday specifically, the reason for its origin tends to be overshadowed by an extra day off work and getting the best food to barbeque. No one is to blame. Taking moments to acknowledge grief and loss is difficult for many, yet it is still necessary for growth and forming genuine connections with our companions.
With all that being said, this is not a call to dismantle the holiday traditions that many hold dear. Instead, it is a call inviting everyone to remember why Memorial Day came to be. Take time during the holiday to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice all our fallen soldiers made, and make an effort to honor and support the families that were left to mourn them while still summoning the courage and strength to carry on with their lives.
From the Blackburn Family, we hope you have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day.