It's here again, the first of our warm-weather holiday weekends, and from now through Monday, countless gatherings all across America will celebrate Memorial Day, 2012. It's the unofficial start of the summer season, and it means different things to different people.
Some of these holiday get-togethers will go by the name BBQ, while others will be called a cookout or a picnic or a block party. Up north, it's an occasion to mix and mingle with family and friends and neighbors after a long winter of mostly indoor activities. Down south and in desert areas, it's a time to get together outdoors, before the blast furnace heat of mid and late summer makes being outside almost unbearable.
Memorial Day weekend, for most folks, will be bittersweet. There's the joy of a long weekend with those we like and love. But there's also the sadness that comes with remembering the fallen heroes for whom this holiday was originally intended.
Memorial Day has always been, and remains today, one of our more controversial holidays. It's origin goes back to the late 1860s, when it was called Decoration Day, and flowers or flags were placed on Civil War graves.
As the idea for a Decoration Day--one that honored all who had died on both sides--spread throughout the country, many of those who lived in Confederate states abstained.
It was not until a century later,in 1967, that, by federal law, Memorial Day became the official name for the holiday. For most of its history, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30. In recent years, however, it has been celebrated on the last Monday in May, creating a very popular long holiday weekend.
There are those who favor a return to the May 30 date--their thinking being that this would return Memorial Day to the solemn time of remembrance originally planned. Senator Daniel Inouye, of Hawaii, has twice, in 1999 and again in 2007, introduced a bill to effect that change. To date no further action has been considered by Congress.
Americans can do both--enjoy a long holiday weekend, while still remembering, and honoring the service men and women who died for their country. I remember the American Legion in Key West doing this..
A morning visit to the military cemetery, with solemn ceremony and thoughtful remembrance, is followed by an afternoon given to celebrating the lives of service men and women everywhere--both the living and the dead. I think Post 28 has it right.
Here's hoping that this weekend your thoughts will turn from time to time to the true meaning of Memorial Day; but we wish also, for you and yours, happy times over this long holiday weekend.