This weekend traditionally marks the beginning of Summer in the minds of almost all Americans. Memorial Day happens on the last Monday of May every year as a celebration of our freedom and remembrance of fallen war veterans. Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years, according to USMemorialDay.org. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. And, some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
According to USMemorialDay.org, Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, according to USMemorialDay.org. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance, as noted by USMemorialDay.org. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country. But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day.
The Memorial Day Holiday weekend is an occasion to honor all those who have served the nation and who continue to serve in harm's way. The weekend also is a time when everyone wants to celebrate with vacations and outdoor activities. Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off the summer vacation season, a time for swimming, cookouts, and fun according to UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Vacations aren't just for fun. They're essential to good mental health. You need time off every so often to recharge, to empty your brain of its day-to-day cares so you have room to refill it. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get the beneficial effects of a vacation. Just taking some time off at home to change your routine and explore new things will leave you feeling rested and ready for new challenges.
In observance of the holiday, WWAY-TV offers suggestions to stay safe during this time. It is a holiday weekend. It is time to relax, spend time with your friends and family, and have some fun. But, sometimes that fun can be harmful to your health. A holiday weekend may mean fun in the sun for some people, but for hospital and emergency employees it means working overtime. More people are outside doing wheeled sports and in the water, so there's certainly an increase in injury. If you want to beat the odds and not end up at the emergency room, plan ahead and take precautions. Be careful of rip currents if you are going swimming in the ocean or at the beach; and, watch the lifeguards, they have flags out -- green, yellow and red. If it's red they typically don't want you in because of rip currents. If you plan on biking or skateboarding, wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads. Also, don't dive in shallow water, remember to re-apply your sunscreen; and if children are near water, medical professionals say they should always be wearing a life jacket.
Revolution Health offers some advice for a healthy Memorial Day weekend. Plan ahead to enjoy a safe, fun and healthy Memorial Day weekend with family and friends. Practicing smart grilling, staying safe in the sun and drinking plenty of fluids can help you make the most of your holiday weekend. While most everyone knows to lather up on sunscreen before going outdoors this weekend and the big "don't" of drinking and driving, there are some additional easy steps to take to make sure your holiday is healthy and pain-free:
1.) Get Spicy to Stay Cool. Eat spicy foods to help you stay cool. Believe it or not, spicy foods dilate your peripheral blood vessels, making you perspire which cools your body.
2.) A Coat in Summertime. Coat both meats and the grill with olive oil to ensure great flavor, but avoid potential carcinogens. Many of us like the flavor of meats with a bit of char (blackening), but research has shown this method can create cancer-causing substances called heterocyclic amines.
3.) The Secret is in the marinade. Choose leaner meats and marinate them for 24 hours to enjoy flavor without all the fat this Memorial Day. Fatty meats make for tasty barbequing, but you can use leaner, healthier meats and make them more tender and enjoy even more flavor by marinating them.
4.) Scream for Ice Cream. Substitute grilled fruit for fat-laden ice cream or cake this Memorial Day. The dry heat of grilling intensifies and caramelizes the natural sugars in fruits.
5.) Chill Out. If you're planning a picnic this weekend, keep food fresher and prevent bacteria by using large chunks rather than small cubes. Large chunks of ice last longer and keep foods colder. Just put some water into a sheet cake or baking pan, freeze it and poof!, you have bacteria-fighting ice!
6.) A Bug’s Life. Try natural alternatives to beat those pesty mosquitoes. You can spray on a diluted liquid garlic concentrate. Or apply vinegar or soybean oil on your skin to prevent the bugs from biting.
7.) Headache Relief in a Glass. In these hot summer months, drink a glass of water to relieve headaches. Often headaches are caused by dehydration and can be alleviated by taking aspirin, but it's usually the beverage consumed when taking the aspirin that helps to immediately relieve the symptoms.
8.) Get Red-dy to Ward off Sunburn. In addition to sunscreen, load up on red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. These have carotenoids that may help naturally reduce sunburn risk; and sunburn is a major risk factor for skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the U.S.
9.) Pool's Open. Fill up empty water bottles and use them for resistance exercises in the pool. It's a fun and easy way to tone and strengthen muscles.
10.) Time for Lights Out. Pull out your alarm clock this long weekend. You may be tempted to stay up late, but keeping a regular schedule will actually help you sleep better and make your sleep more restful and restorative.
Memorial Day can be a festive time. And, it can also be a solemn time. According to USMemorialDay.org, the "Memorial" in Memorial Day has been ignored by many who are beneficiaries of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Often, Americans do not observe the day as it should be, a day where the nation actively remembers our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have sacrificed so much. There are many ways to honor those who died in defense of freedom:
--by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
--by visiting memorials.
--by flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
--by flying the 'POW/MIA Flag' as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
--by participating in a "National Moment of Remembrance": at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
--by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.
So, regardless of your celebration habits on Memorial Day, take time to remember what the meaning of the Holiday is about. Take time out to honor those who sacrificed and those who continue to keep our country free. Say a prayer for the families of the fallen, for our veterans, and for those who now serve in our armed forces. Offer a prayer of thanks to God for allowing the United States to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. No matter what anyone else says, America is still a Christian nation. Our nation stays safe by the providence of God and receives His blessings in spite of our behavior. Sing out loud the national anthem with your hand over your heart if you go to a ballgame. Encourage your kids to do the same. Put out an American flag on the front porch or door post. Remember that freedom isn't free--there is a high cost. Those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice since 1776 thank you from beyond. Then, have fun, and be safe.
Until next time. Let me know what you think.