By Staff Writers
There are no historical documents, unless we refer to ads on TV, in newspapers and on social media plugs that explain when and why Memorial Day became a holiday to celebrate shopping, but it seems businesses are happy to have had it declared as such.
Memorial Day has also morphed into a holiday for planning to take a three day holiday to get on the water or out of town, but not this year.
How many people could actually give an account about what Memorial Day represents and when it started?
There are many reasons for the customs and ceremonies that America observance on Memorial Day, such as laying flowers on burial sites to mark the grave of remembrance to honor those who gave their lives in military service.
Originally, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and observed in Charleston, SC on the last Monday in May to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp.
On this date in 1865, former Black slaves started Memorial Day in America. Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp,” states an historic document in the African America Museum and Library, Minneapolis MN. “They dug up the bodies and worked for two weeks to give them a proper burial as gratitude for fighting for their freedom.” Teachers, missionaries, Black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony that year. Newspapers from many areas covered the story and told of how the freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground.
They built an enclosure with an arch labeled, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” There were almost 10,000 people, mostly freedmen, about 3,000 Black school children newly enrolled in Freedmen’s schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops, Black ministers and White northern missionaries that brought flowers to be placed on the burial field. Years later, the celebration was called the “First Decoration Day” in the North. The Monument Terrace Troop Rally on April 18, 2014 collected memorabilia decorations on a wreath which was to be placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on May 11, 2014. Then the tradition of the President of the United States or another high-ranking government official in his behalf, placing the symbolic wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. After World War I, as the day came to be observed in honor of those who had died in all U.S. wars, its name changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. Since 1971 Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May.
There is nothing wrong with participating in a traditional shopping weekend or weekend on the lake during Memorial Day Weekend, but why not create a patriotic event each year to study together or learn about the holiday? Or have a little ceremony by a tree with your camping friends.
This year, 2020, has become a uniquely difficult one in many ways. Of course I am referring to the far reaching changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a perfect chance to add another element to reflect on Memorial Day, and there are many heroes we can honor in appreciation this year.