Monday, May 30, 2011

HOW MEMORIAL DAY GOT STARTED

Today is a holiday called Memorial Day, when a lot of people will be going to cemeteries to put flowers on graves.  Also a lot of people will have picnics and go camping or boating or to the swimming pool.  Nowadays, Memorial Day is kind of like the official beginning of summer, but that is not the real reason the holiday got invented.

Gettysburg National Cemetery
There are more than two dozen towns that claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, so it's kind of hard to know which town is right.  What we know for sure is that Memorial Day started right after the Civil War, except that it might have even started during the War, when some of the Southern women used to decorate the graves of the Confederate soldiers.

But Wikipedia, which is always right about everything, says that the first time Memorial Day was observed was on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina.  And what happened that day was that a group of former slaves decorated the graves of 257 Union soldiers at Washington Race Course.  And that was the beginning of Decoration Day, which is what the holiday was originally called.


Meanwhile, in the North, Decoration Day got started in Waterloo, New York, on May 5, 1866.  Two years later, General John A. Logan, who was the commander-in-chief of a group of Union veterans called the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed Decoration Day a national holiday.  General Logan said that this holiday should be on May 30 every year, and he chose this date because it was not the anniversary of any Civil War battle.





General John Logan
On the first official Decoration Day after General Logan's proclamation, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and then 5,000 people helped decorate the graves of more than 22,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

The first state to recognize the new holiday was New York, in 1873, and by 1890, all the northern states had recognized it.  But the South did not want to do something just because the North was doing it, so each southern state decided on its own date for Decoration Day.








Things went on this way until after World War I, when the holiday got changed so that it was for remembering the dead soldiers from all wars.  In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act, and that made Memorial Day fall on the last Monday in May.








This way, we always get a three-day weekend, and that makes people happy.  Which is why there are so many family get-togethers and stuff like that.  Also a big auto race called the Indianapolis 500 is always held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.  But here at our house, we don't really care about auto racing, so we didn't watch it.  And today, Mom is going to celebrate the holiday by planting some flowers (but not on anyone's grave) and by mowing the grass.  I told Mom we should have a cookout, with lots of yummy meat, but this turned out to be another feckless suggestion.

10 comments:

  1. Yardening is in my plans as well. I do think, though, that some "dogs" on the grill will be in order as well.

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  2. Dogs on the grill are fine, as long as they are HOT DOGS and not REAL DOGS! Hahahaha!

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  3. Dear Piper,

    My sissy said to be careful with Wikipedia as it isn't always right. Wiki can be edited by people who don't know anything and could say that Memorial Day was started by a bunch of Chihuahuas (can you imagine, Chihuahuas?)

    Believe it or not, some people get 4-day vacations! My daddy gets 4-day vacations for Memorial Day! Of course, he did take a vacation day to get a 4-day vacation (gotcha!) :) He wanted to go kayaking today, but his kayaking holes were full of people so he couldn't go kayaking. He was very bummed and cranky when he came home considering it's actually very warm today. Normally, it's raining and icky on Memorial Day here!

    Your friend,
    Zena

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  4. Dear Zena,
    My mom has also told me that I shouldn't believe everything I read in Wikipedia, so I don't really. I was just sort of making a joke when I said that Wikipedia is right about everything. LOL

    When my mom was still working, which was before she got old and retired, she used to sometimes take a 4-day weekend for Memorial Day, too, because she liked to go camping. Luckily, she had stopped camping by the time I came along, so I never had to go out and sleep in a tent, which I don't think I would have liked very much.

    I'm sorry that all your daddy's kayaking holes were full. That is the problem with a holiday weekend. Everybody decides to go out and do the same thing in the same place, so it's too crowded!

    Your friend,
    Piper

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  5. Piper,

    My daddy thought it wouldn't be too bad at one of his "holes" (considering it is a camping place), but lo and behold, there was a boat race going on. My daddy doesn't do boat races. He likes to kayak for fun.

    I'm not a water dog so if I come with him and Mommy when he goes kayaking, I'm coming to walk AROUND the lake with Mommy, not to go in it. Daddy once said I should kayak with him and I scoffed at him.

    My parents still go camping, but they do something called "resort camping," while I stay home with Sissy (which is unfair, if you ask me). They camp in a hotel and go out into the woods during the day when they camp. I don't think that's camping, but they won't listen to me.

    -Zena

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  6. The were "hot dogs" but one of my four legged dogs stayed very close to the grill.

    Oh, I was A.Nony Mous above. Hadn't created a log in.

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  7. Dear Zena,

    You are very smart to walk AROUND the lake and not get your dainty feet wet. I looked at your photo, by the way, and I think you are very cute!

    I agree that what your mom and dad do is not Real Camping, but maybe you should let them have their fantasy.

    Eva

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  8. Dear Uncle David,

    I am very glad you ate hot dogs and not a REAL dog! I hope you gave your real dog some yummy food off the grill!

    Piper

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  9. Dear Eva and Piper,

    Thank you for the compliment.

    Many e-kisses,
    Zena

    P.S. How was your Memorial Day?

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