By: J. Chevonte’ Alexander
I am sure many of you are looking forward to a long three-day weekend, and who does not love a Monday off? Warm temps, cookouts, dips in the pool, naps on the beach – sounds relaxing, right? Well, all these relaxing and fun events are right around the corner as summer is peaking through.
This year, we celebrate the Memorial Day holiday on May 26, but summer doesn’t actually start until June 21. But many people consider Memorial Day to be the unofficial start of the season. Many families will heat up the grill, head to the beach or take a mini vacation to enjoy the warm weather. But Memorial Day has the word “memorial” in it for a reason.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Memorial Day is a holiday where we honor the lives of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Decoration Day, and then Memorial Day, used to be held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell. Some say that moving it to the last Monday of the month and making it a three-day weekend has made it more of the beginning of the summer vacation season.
|Did you know? Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.|
Memorial Day started as an event to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. It was inspired by the way people in the Southern states honored their dead. After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women who died in any war or military action.
The current name for this day did not come into use until after World War II. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed as part of a move to use federal holidays to create three-day weekends. This meant that, from 1971, Memorial Day holiday has been officially observed on the last Monday in May. However, it took a longer period for all American states to recognize the new date.
How to Commemorate Memorial Day
President Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday on the last Monday in May. Cities all around the U.S. will hold their respective celebrations to pay respect to the men and women who have died in wars or in the service of their country.
It is important for parents to teach their children the meaning of Memorial Day, and not to get lost in anticipation of summer, barbeques, camping and more. To military families, the meaning runs much deeper than a casual barbeque. Memorial Day is a holiday and it means so much to our country’s history.
Below are a list of general things you can do as a family to make sure the meaning of Memorial Day gets its full attention and the respect it deserves.
Honor and Respect – Visit a local Veteran’s cemetery.
Visit and Pay Tribute – Take a care package to a nearby Veteran’s hospital.
Educate with History – Watch a movie and learn some history about a famous battle.
Make a Soldier’s Day – Create a card to be sent overseas to a Soldier currently at war.
Take a Day Trip to Celebrate the Weekend
24th Annual UMOJA Festival – Portsmouth, VA
Click here to see the promo video.
Umoja means Unity. Come celebrate it at Portsmouth’s 24th Annual African-American Culture and Heritage Festival promoting Cultural Diversity and Unity.
Umoja, a Kiswahili word meaning unity, is the first principal of Kwanzaa, an African-American cultural holiday celebrated from December 26th through January 1st. This principal emulates unity in the family, community and nation.
Umoja Processional – “Drums of Africa” Group – The UMOJA Festival opens with a traditional African drum call sending polyrhythm through the air, a ceremonial processional and the blessing of the elders – all facets of ancient tribal cultures, customs and traditions. For two and one-half days, the beautiful waterfront of Portsmouth is transformed into an image of its Sister City Eldoret, Kenya.
It begins with permission from the elders: In African tradition, permission from the elders of the village is often sought because of their wisdom, knowledge and experience. The Umoja Festival has always observed this tradition in seeking permission from the elders of the Portsmouth community.
Enjoy FREE admission to all festivities including live music, a heritage tour, kids activities, food, and more.
Want to head to D.C. for the weekend?
What better way to show your patriotism than to celebrate Memorial Day in Washington, D.C.? On the Thursday before Memorial Day, soldiers gather at Arlington National Cemetery and put flags before each gravestone of the honorable soldiers who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
On Memorial Day, there is a wreath-laying ceremony in Washington, D.C. at the Tomb of the Unknowns along with musical performances from the U.S. Army Band.
Later on in the week, there is a National Memorial Day Concert held on Sunday at the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., so don’t miss it!
Or, stay in Richmond!
On Monday, May 26, Virginia’s official commemoration of the national holiday to honor and remember our valiant men and women will take place at the Virginia War Memorial on Belvidere Street. Click here for more information.
The 58th Festival of the Arts at Dogwood Dell will begin on May 26 with a Memorial Day program that will feature a Carillon Bell Concert at 4 p.m. and the TRADOC Army Band Quartet concert on the Dell Main Stage at 7 p.m. Please visit www.richmondgov.com/Parks/index.aspx for a full calendar of events.
My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. ~ John F. Kennedy