May 27, 2013
The Meaning Of Memorial Day
What does Memorial Day mean? To Hollywood, it is the start of the summer movie season, but in all fairness this has now crept up into April as studios look to get the rush on the other big films. However, it still remains a major movie weekend.
It is also about time to get together with friends and family for outdoor activities. To those who look to get away, it is also a three-day weekend, although this year weather might be exactly agreeable in some parts of the country.
It is known for big events, too. The Sunday before Memorial Day is when the Indianapolis 500 motor race takes place. And, of course, it is a time to do some shopping.
Retailers see this as a good excuse to have a three day sale, with many retailers promoting it to the fullest extent possible. There are increasing special sections on websites devoted to the holiday weekend. Home Depot for one has a “Memorial Day Prep” page. What is interesting is that this isn’t there to provide flags, banners or other ways to mark the day.
A few years ago, Loew’s ran an ad campaign that upset some veterans, as it claimed that “Memorial Day was about the projects,” meaning that the United States instituted this Monday holiday to give everyone an extra day to get started on projects around the yard and home.
But, Memorial Day isn’t about the projects; it isn’t about spending a day at the beach or going to the movies. It is supposed to be about the veterans. And, more importantly, those veterans who served and gave their life in that service.
It wasn’t even originally Memorial Day, but was rather “Decoration Day” and it honored the fallen from the Civil War. It was first held in 1882 and was a somewhat somber affair. It wasn’t actually until after World War II that it grew in popularity and only became a Federal holiday in 1967. More recently is when it went from being about the soldiers to an excuse for the BBQs and home improvement projects.
It was originally held on May 30 and thus fell at various days during the week. Eventually the holiday was moved to the last Monday of the month to create that three day weekend.
While there are plenty of parades, Memorial Day isn’t actually about the veterans, either.
The actual “Veterans Day” was established to commemorate the end of the First World War and this is why it falls in November, but it is also established as the day to honor all American veterans – living or dead.
Memorial Day (as the name should imply) is meant to be a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. As with Veterans Day, it was born out of war; and as noted the American Civil War.
The holiday was established as way to heal the wounds following the terrible war in which brother fought brother, and was established as a way to commemorate both the Union and Confederate fallen. Later, it was extended to honor all Americans who died in military service.
It is thus important that two holidays are not confused. As noted, Veterans Day celebrates and honors all U.S. military veterans living or dead, while Memorial Day is to honor those who died so that we can enjoy those barbeques, summer movies and trips to the beach.
So, go to the movies, enjoy a much needed day off, tackle some projects, but also take a moment to remember that there are those who went off to war and sadly never came back.
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