Lebanon Reporter

Columns

May 23, 2014

Remember why we celebrate memorials

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. Most Americans today do not know the meaning or the traditions of this holiday. It has become the celebration of the beginning of summer and the time the swimming pool opens. A memorial is anything meant to help people remember some person or event. We celebrate a person’s life with a funeral or a memorial service. We place a monument at the grave as a reminder the person who is buried in that place.

Decoration Day, as Memorial Day was originally known, was designated as a day to commemorate the over 600,000 soldiers who died in the American Civil War. On this day the graves of these soldiers were decorated with flowers. Its celebration became more common after World War II, and in the 20th century was extended to honor all Americans who died while in military service in any war. The graves of soldiers who are buried in Arlington National Cemetery are decorated with flags for Memorial Day weekend.

Celebrations around the country often included military-themed parades with marching bands and services of remembrance honoring those who gave their lives for their country.

After the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30th to the last Monday in May, it seemed to lose its meaning. Traditional observance of Memorial Day also declined. On May 2, 2000, President Bill Clinton wrote a memorandum asking “that all Americans come together to recognize how fortunate we are to live in freedom and to observe a universal ‘National Moment of Remembrance’ on each Memorial Day … (as) a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.” Congress later passed legislation that established the practice of joining for one minute at 3 p.m. to pray for peace and “to honor the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace.”Many people still go to the cemeteries on or near Memorial Day weekend. The name of this holiday reminds people of their family members who are still dear to their hearts, although they are no longer walking on the earth. So in remembrance of their loved ones who are no longer here, they decorate the graves of their deceased relatives with flowers.

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