While Memorial Day has become well-known for its three-day weekends, sales, and being the unofficial first day of summer, the holiday has a history that runs much deeper. As you gather for the family BBQ, head to the beach, or, like me, to cuddle with your pup on the couch for the long weekend, here are five ways you can bring a little Memorial Day history into your home.
Celebrate the Day’s Roots
The holiday started in the mid- to late-1860s with community members noting “how lonely and cheerless the bare graves of the soldiers [looked].” They went out to decorate soldier’s graves, which became known as Decoration Day.
Decoration Day originated in the Confederate South, but was quickly adopted by the Union. The 1879 Memorial Day Oration explains why:
When the [Civil War] was over, in the South … the widows, mothers, and children of the Confederate dead went out and strewed their graves with flowers; at many places the women scattered them impartially also over the unknown and unmarked resting places of the Union soldiers. As the news of this touching tribute flashed over the North, it roused, as nothing else could have done, national amity and love, and allayed sectional animosity and passion…. Thus, out of sorrows, common alike to the North and the South, came this beautiful custom.
Chauncey Depew, former US Senator
Have a designated spot in your home that honors a family member who has served? Memorial Day weekend is a wonderful time to update the space: maybe add red poppies, the national symbol for remembrance, or change out photos to include places around the world that were important to the service member in your family.
Alternatively, you can set a White Table to honor service members fallen, missing, or held captive in the line of duty.
Respect the Honorees
When Monday comes around and you’re recovering from your weekend of shopping, eating, and swimming, take some time to sit in your home’s library, family room, or other sanctuary (maybe the flagpole out front, or the fountain in the back?) and reflect on those the holiday honors.
First, observe the National Moment of Remembrance. Passed in December of 2000, this act requests all Americans to observe a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day in honor of all service members. Take the time to turn off the TV, step away from the grill, or take off the headphones for a moment. Why 3 p.m.? Potentially, “because it’s likely when Americans are most enjoying the freedom made possible by those who died in service of their country.”
While you have your family’s attention, read a relevant poem together. The Blue and the Gray (1867) by Francis Miles Finch, published in response to the Civil War, and In Flanders Fields (1915) by John McCrae, written during World War I, have inspired Memorial Day tradition.
Make the Most of the Extra Day Off
We’ve come to expect a three-day weekend at the end of May, but that hasn’t always been the case. When first declared nationally in 1868, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30, regardless of what day it fell on. Happened to land on a Saturday or Sunday? No extra day off.
However, the government grew fond of the idea of an extended weekend in 1968: The Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved Memorial Day, along with other key holidays, to designated Mondays, providing federal employees with more three-day weekends.
Since you do get the extra day, why not take the time to finish that home improvement project you’ve been putting off? You can think about updating your deck perhaps, or familiarizing yourself with a new smart home control hub. For a sentimental twist, plant a tree in honor of a late veteran.
Know the Rules of the Flag
If you’re proudly displaying your U.S. flag outside your home, know the Memorial Day flag regulations. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the flag is to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to noon, to remember those that have fallen in service of the U.S. Then, at noon, raise it to full-staff to honor those that currently serve.
If this is the first holiday in your new home, we want to see! Tag @NewHomeSource on your Instagram Story and include the hashtag #MyNewHome, and we’ll repost throughout the coming week!
If you or someone you know has served in the United States Armed Forces, the writers at NewHomeSource thank you, regardless of race, class, religion, gender representation, sexual orientation, or any other factor that could be used to label someone as “other.” Today, we remember and celebrate you all.