Monday, May 25, 2009

The True Meaning & Purpose of Memorial Day

With all the Memorial Day sales, neighborhood cookouts, and the quest to make the most of a day off from work, it's easy to overlook the true meaning and purpose of Memorial Day. Today is a solemn day of remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in giving their lives while serving our nation. I've been guilty of forgetting this myself, so I thought it would be worthwhile to read up on the origins of this holiday to remind myself of its true purpose and meaning. Here's a summary of what I found.

The origins of Memorial Day in the US date back to the late 1860s, when it was called "Decoration Day" because flowers would be placed on the graves of soldiers who had died in the Civil War. The first official observance was on May 30, 1868 with flowers being placed on both Union and Confederate soldiers' graves in Arlington National Cementery. In the following years, individual states began adopting May 30 as Memorial Day although many Southern states continued to honor their Confederate dead on separate dates. In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act establishing Memorial Day as a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May.

You might see people wearing red poppies on their lapels today. This custom dates back to World War I, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields" written by a Canadian soldier during that war, and serves to remind us of our fallen soldiers. The VFW sells artificial poppies made by disabled veterans to help raise money for their support.

Sadly, the traditional observance of Memorial Day has declined in recent years, being overshadowed by commercialism and perhaps simply by the relief of having a day off from work during hectic times. Unfortunately, fewer people are taking the time to honor our fallen soldiers on this day, and their graves are increasingly neglected or ignored. In an attempt to encourage the traditional observance of Memorial Day and educate the public on its meaning, Congress passed "The National Moment of Remembrance Act" in 2000. This Act encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3pm local time today for a minute of silence to honor and remember those who gave their lives in the service of our country. Please join me in doing so today. And if you happen to see a member of our Armed Forces today, please consider saying a simple thank you to them for their service.

Here are some informative sites if you want to learn more about Memorial Day:
US Dept. of Veteran Affairs:

The Memorial Day Site:

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company, Inc.
Operation Sauce Drop


  1. Interesting article. I didn't know American's wore the red poppy. Prior to reading this article I thought it was an Australian/UK thing.

    Lest we forget.

  2. Thanks for reading my post, and for your comment. I didn't realize folks in Australia and the UK followed the same custom. The red poppies are also worn in Canada -- I've noticed that on TV watching hockey games especially on and around Remembrance Day, which Canada celebrates on November 11th, when most of the coaches and broadcasters wear a red poppy on their lapel. Unfortunately, you don't see as many people here in the US wearing the red poppy anymore. I recall seeing more folks wearing them back when I was a child.