Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Growing up in Washington County, Maryland, this has always been a special time of year marked by small town parades, family cookouts and picnics, the opening of swimming pools and the town carnival, but first and foremost, remembrance of those who have died while serving in our country’s armed forces. Though school usually isn’t out just yet, Memorial Day Weekend is often considered the unofficial kick-off to summer.
There’s nothing like driving through the small towns of my childhood on Memorial Day weekend. There are countless flags waving in the breeze and people’s homes are decked out in red, white and blue bunting and décor. The smell of delicious grilled food wafts from people’s backyard gatherings and the Ferris wheel is visible above the tree line from the carnival at the town park. It’s like a glimpse into small town America, where everyone knows everyone and families congregate along Main Street to enjoy a parade with veterans, local marching bands, fire trucks and scout groups. The heart of the occasion is marked with a traditional wreath laying ceremony by veterans’ organizations and patriotic song.
Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, shortly after the Civil War, to honor the mass number of casualties from both the North and South. During the war, it became common for women to decorate the graves of soldiers with flowers. The commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans’ organization for Union Civil War veterans, proclaimed that Decoration Day should be observed annually and nationwide on May 30, 1868. There’s speculation that this has a connection to the number of beautiful flowers blooming this time of year. Memorial Day became the more common name for the holiday after World War II and was declared the official name in 1967.
Whether your Memorial Day celebration includes an extended weekend, time with family, or a traditional small town parade, I hope you will take time to remember the sacrifices of so many men and women. Have a safe and happy holiday!