The history of Memorial Day goes all the way back to the Civil War era when, in 1865, a group of former slaves now freed men, women and children, dug up a mass grave of Union soldiers near a Confederate prison camp in Charleston, South Carolina, creating indivdual graves for each of the soldiers who had fallen in the name of freedom, including individual grave markers. Did you know that??? I didn't until today. A South Carolina newspaper called it "Decoration Day," and so the first "Memorial" Day was born.
The first official observance of "Decoration Day" was in Waterloo, New York in May 1866. John A. Logan brought the holiday to a national level in 1868. Unfortunately, the South refused to participate EXCEPT for a small town in Mississippi, who not only honored Confederate casualtiers, but also, fallen Union soldiers.
"Decoration Day" officially became "Memorial Day" in 1882 but wasn't in common use until a 1967 Federal Law was passed making "Memorial Day" a Federal holiday.
As we remember our soldiers, some still making sacrifices for America today, as well as those family members who passed before us this Memorial Day, we should also remember the history of the day itself. Human ritual is important in many cultures and is often used to remember culturally-relevant lessons or historic events. Memorial Day is a uniquely American ritual, started by a uniquely American historic moment in time. Oftentimes, such human ritual begins with tragedy and death. And this holiday is no different. As we move forward, remembering the wars of our past might help lessen the inclination to go to war in our future. Of course, war isn't always a choice...and that's worth remembering, too.
So as you meet friends and family for picnics, barbeques or maybe begin a mini-vacation for the long weekend, remember what sacrifices make those freedoms possible--no matter what side of the political fence you fall on. It's one thing to enjoy freedom, but would you die for it? Many have and many more will. Let's take a moment this Memorial Day to remember that.
Stay safe, dearest readers! Until next time...Happy Memorial Day!
PS: Memorial Day 2010 is May 31st; to donate to veterans and their families, try www.OperationHomeFront.net or www.militaryfamily.org or find a related charity that fits your needs best at www.charitynavigator.org