Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the United States. I will blog more about Memorial Day tomorrow, during Music Moves Me.
This is a repost of a Memorial Day post from May 30, 2011, with some edits and updates. I was talking to my now-adult son yesterday, and remembering this trip. It brought back such memories:
In 2002, we were on our way from upstate New York in the United States
to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We stopped off in Iowa City, where
one of my aunts (now deceased) then lived. It was the Memorial Day weekend.
Just after we crossed into the city limits, we passed a cemetery. It
was a blizzard of American flags. I could not believe how many flags
there were. It showed that the residents of Iowa City had not
completely forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day, a special day for residents of the United States.
In 2010, I blogged about a GI love story for Memorial Day. This year, I'd like to talk some more about the origin of this
holiday, which is tied up with our Civil War, 1861-1865. It's strange in a way, when I write about the Civil War,
because I had no ancestors in this country during the Civil War. So I
don't have any direct family links to this war. Rather, my links come
from being born and growing up in this country.
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. It was first
observed in 1868 with laying of flowers on the graves of both Union and
Confederate troops at Arlington National Cemetery. (as an aside, you
may be interested in the origin of Arlington National Cemetery, whose origin is also directly related to the Civil War.)
My home state, New York, was the first to adopt Decoration Day as a holiday.
After World War I, it became a holiday (Memorial Day) to honor the dead of all wars.
I can remember, growing up, when Memorial Day was observed on May 30, no
matter what day of the week it was. In 1971, I believe, it was changed
to the current "last Monday in May" so that it could become part of
several three day weekends being created. Many people think that
celebrating Memorial Day more as a "first day of summer" blowout
beach/BBQ/shopping day has been recent, but apparently even in the early
20th century the day was already starting to drift away from its
Another ceremony connected with this holiday is the playing of Taps.
Taps originated during the Civil War, composed by a member of the Army
of the Potomac to serve as a "lights out" signal. Research I've done
indicates that it didn't take long for Taps to be adopted by both
Federal and Confederate armies. It is so well suited to military
burials that, again, its true origin is somewhat buried.
I am proud to say that my father was a disabled veteran of World War
II. Today, let us take a moment to honor the veterans of all wars,
living and dead. They are our living reminders that the price of
freedom is sometimes a very steep one for those who pay it on our