Make the Most Out of Your Memorial Holiday!
Memorial Day is more than a three day escape from the usual grind of daily life. It is a chance for us to spend some time to celebrate and memorialize the lives of all those who died while in military service. Regardless of whether you have activities planned out for the three-day vacation, but it’s important to pause to remember the sacrifices made for the stars and the blue, red, and white. And since Memorial Day also marks the beginning of summer in New York, why not combine the two activities by checking out and joining the parades happening in each of New York’s five boroughs? There are a lot of activities lined up for those looking for a great time, and opportunities waiting for creative businesses.
But before all that, let’s take a look at the real reason why this holiday exists.
Memorial Day—the History
Memorial Day began as Decoration Day—a day to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. Since the 20th century, Decoration Day had been extended to honor all American soldiers who have died in service. To mark the day, most people visit cemeteries and memorials and place an American flag on graves of those who died in service of the country. The celebration of this particular holiday varies from cemetery to cemetery, and sometimes, from family to family. Some American families take this opportunity to gather on a designated day and put flowers on graves and renew contacts with relatives and kinsfolk. Some people might confuse Memorial Day with Veterans day, but to clear that out: Memorial Day is a day dedicated to remembering all the men and women who died while serving, while Veteran’s day is to honor the service of all U.S. military veterans.
Some people opt to celebrate Memorial Day by decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers. The earliest reported instance of honouring those who died on the battlefield is on June 3, 1861, implying the first Memorial Day occurred then; but in terms of proof, the first widely-publicized observance of the Memorial Day is in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1, 1865. American history professor David W. Blight, in his book Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, stated that the first Memorial Day happened in the midst of the war itself. During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Charleston Race Course, wherein 257 Union soldiers died and were hastily placed in unmarked graves. Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, brought flowers to lay on the burial field, and built an enclosure and an arch labelled “Martyrs of the Race Course”. This was covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers.
Traditionally, Memorial Day is observed by raising the national flag to the top of the staff and solemnly lowering it to the half position, where it remains until noon. It is raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is symbolically raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue to fight for liberty and justice for all.
Aside from being a very important national holiday, Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, and marks the end of Labor Day.
What to Do
Aside from visiting and honouring graves of our fallen heroes, there are a lot of parades and rallies you could join to commemorate the holiday. You could attend concerts, parades, rallies, memorials, and festivals. Regardless of where you happen to be in the United States, you’re in for an awesome time. In Washington DC, for example, you could attend the National Memorial Day concert, or join the National Memorial Day Parade. Arlington National Cemetery and Antietam National Cemetery would be holding wreath-laying ceremonies that you could attend if you’re planning to celebrate the holiday the more traditional way.
You could also opt to spend the holiday outside: organize a picnic or a get together on a national park and spend the day with your friends and loved ones! You could head out to a shore and have a picnic by the beach (Coney Island Beach, anyone?), or ride a boat and watch the urban skyline! If you’re one to enjoy urban landscapes, you could opt to go to parks that offer shows (such as Flushing Meadows in Corona Park, or The High Line in Washington St.). If you want a quiet commune with nature, check out the Riverside Park in Manhattan. There is no lack of things to do, or venues to visit if you’re planning to just spend the day in the company of those you love most.
If you’re a foodie looking for a gastronomical adventure, you’re in for a treat! Want a BBQ party and cookout? Grill to your heart’s content at the Bone Lick BBQ restaurant at 1133 Huff Road in Atlanta! A tea aficionado? Head to the Chestertown Tea Party Festival on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay and get ready for a tea toss re-enactment, colonial parade, cocktail party, raft race, street performances, and lots and lots of tea!
Looking to party? Have a cocktail high above the city and take in spectacular views at one of the many elevated bars in NYC! Or join in on some of the lively music festivals (such as the Atlanta Jazz Festival in Piedmont Park, or the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Music Festival in California, or Denver Day of Rock in 16th Street). Art festivals abound during this holiday as well! Regardless of the kind of activity you’re into, there’s sure to be something for you!
Remembering Memorial Day
Planning on launching your very own Memorial Day event, or being a sponsor in one? It’s important to keep in mind the real highlight of the day, and that is to thank all of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives to keep all of us safe. What better way to show your support for the troops than by issuing Memorial Day themed giveaway items such as pins and ribbons that people could wear while they’re enjoying the day? This is a simple way to keep everyone reminded of the reason why everyone is gathered at wherever they might be at the moment. Businesses could opt to hand out Memorial Day pins and ribbons to their employees before the day itself, as a simple giveaway and souvenir item.
The spirit of the event could also be expressed in the items that could be bought in Memorial Day event venues. Promotional umbrellas and picnic blankets are in-demand items for families in picnic areas. Fans and bottled water are practical items to have in your arsenal too, as the summer season is fast approaching. Keychains, shirts, and refrigerator magnets are excellent souvenir items to commemorate this special day; it’s something that would last long, and would remind everyone of this memorable day, and of your business too, in the process.
Personalize your own Memorial Day custom items now, and make this year’s Memorial Day one that is worth remembering.
Mariah Shanice Basa