Our country is the land of the free because of the brave patriots that have been safeguarding our liberties ever since the American Revolution. Originally called Decoration Day after the Civil War, Memorial Day was set aside to remember those who died in our nation’s service, and to decorate the graves of the war dead with flags and flowers. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day to be a national legal holiday to be held on the last Monday in May.
While it’s fun to go on picnics and campouts over the three-day weekend, children still need to be taught the true meaning of Memorial Day. The holiday serves to remind us that the preservation of our way of life is a serious responsibility that requires eternal vigilance and is not to be taken lightly. Memorial Day should be a day when we actively remember our ancestors, family members, neighbors, and countrymen who’ve helped to secure the freedoms that we enjoy every day.
This Memorial Day, take time to honor our nation’s veterans by communicating your gratitude to the patriotic warriors in your family and community. Involve your children in this effort, explaining to them that, if it wasn’t for the brave sacrifices made by previous generations of military men and women, liberty may have long ago given way to tyranny.
Display some old fashioned patriotism and fly the American flag with gratitude and pride. (The American flag is traditionally placed at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day.) Wear red, white, and blue. Sing patriotic songs. Play “Taps.” Visit a veterans memorial. Put flags or flowers on the graves of veterans and loved ones. Observe a minute of prayer or silence in honor of those who gave their lives for their country. (The annual national moment of remembrance is at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day.)
Make the observance of Memorial Day a family tradition to pass down to future generations. F. L. Lloyd of West Chester, Pennsylvania appropriately described Memorial Day when he said, “If it is considered a holiday, why is it so? I consider it to be a national day of mourning. This is how we observe this day in our home. Because of what that day represents, the rest of the days of the year are our holidays.”
Read about the history and traditions of Memorial Day (including the symbolism of red poppies and the story of Taps) at http://www.knowledgehouse.info/njfk/memorial.html.
See also: Celebrating America’s Freedoms – a series of essays about the country’s most familiar symbols, customs, and observances, including Memorial Day.