Celebrating Memorial Day in the States

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For those who aren’t yanks, Memorial Day is an American national holiday that remembers and honors the men and women who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the last Monday of May every year, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the war. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service. 

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service and family members and also volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

Growing up, I recall visiting gravestones of uncles, cousins and friends who died in Korea, World War II and Vietnam and it was common that friends in the small town I grew up in on the east coast, did the same.

Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountains. In cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried, this may take on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles. People gather on the designated day and put flowers on graves and renew contacts with kinfolk and others. There often is a religious service and a “dinner on the ground,” the traditional term for a potluck meal in which people used to spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the “memorial day” idea.

There are various events and parades that happen throughout the country with the biggest one in Washington DC.

Happy Memorial Day all if you happen to be in the states this week or are American – a toast and with gratitude to the people who served this country to keep it free.