Memorial Day - What is it's Significance in 2019?

19 May 2019 • Celebrating Life

What is Memorial Day?

Also know as "Decoration Day" Memorial Day is a special day to remember and honour those who have served in our armed services and paid the ultimate price.

Memorial Day Significance

In today’s world of commercialism, hectic pace and as society evolves away from traditional reverences, we ask ourselves whether Memorial Day has lost its significance? Is it just a tradition that some observe for the sake of history, being grounded in the past? Is it just another holiday that we happily take for granted, without truly appreciating the reason why we have it? Is Memorial Day still significant and how should we mark it?

The Memorial Day Story

There are some pieces of history that shape who we are and the society we live in. Memorial Day is one of these.

Fittingly it is a federal holiday, a day of contrasts, set aside for quiet moments of reflection alongside rowdy celebration. To keep the memory of those who have fought to protect us and not returned home alive, to celebrate their lives and their sacrifice.

Celebrated on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day also marks the end of spring and the start of the summer vacation. It is an opportunity to set the tone for a new season, to refocus and go forward with renewed energy and mindfulness.

A quick history is… Memorial Day was formally recognised as a federal holiday for the first time in 1971. The day had been informally celebrated as Decoration Day, starting on May 5, 1866 in Waterloo, New York. On May 5, 1868, the leader of an organisation for Northern Civil War Veterans voiced the need for a national day of remembrance. General John A Logan called for “The 30th of May, 1868, [to be] designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defence of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

At this early point in its history, the holiday’s intent was to remember those who served and died in the blood bath that was the Civil War. The date was changed from May 5 to May 30 specifically because this new date was not the anniversary of any specific war. It was to be a day for remembrance of all who served and did not return, not just those in the Civil War.

In 1968, Congress passed what was known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This act did two things, it established the last Monday in May as Memorial Day and also made the day a federal holiday. This gave the nation a 3-day weekend to remember those who had fought and died for their freedom and rights.

The Memorial Day Difference

There can be some confusion around the difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day. They are three clearly distinct and diverse holidays.

Memorial Day in May is to remember and celebrate the lives lost during military service.

Veterans Day (November 11) is to remember the sacrifice and be grateful to those who have fought in wars and returned home.

While Armed Forces Day (May 18) is to celebrate and show gratitude to those who are currently serving in conflicts around the world. Right now. Today.

Treasured Memorial Day Traditions

Memorial Day is steeped in tradition, there are parades, visits to cemeteries with flowers and flags, memorial gatherings and the wearing of red poppies to mark remembrance.

These traditions are incredibly important to our society. In the words of Elie Wiesel, "Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory there would be no civilization, no future." This is the day we remember and build new memories.

Memorial Day has traditionally been a sombre occasion. However, the focus is now turning to treasuring the freedoms and privileges that our service men and women fought so hard for. Recognising that life can be short and treasuring the time we have with loved ones now.

Memorial Day’s Significance Today

As Memorial Day celebrations evolve, new traditions are emerging. While still remembering those who have fought and paid the ultimate price, families and communities recognise the importance of being together, of celebrating freedom, of treasuring memories. Making new memories through time spent together.

Families and friends gathering for meals, parties, barbecues and the like. These celebrations strongly recognise a new focus of renewed hope and new life, symbolised by the changing of the season and the beginning of summer. This is about appreciating the sacrifice made and spending time with those we love now. We remember, honour and keep alive the beliefs and ideals that our service men and women so passionately fought for.

Memorial Day is a thread of tradition that is interwoven into the fabric of our society and will always remain that way. It will always hold a deep and meaningful significance, whether it is remember in solemn reflection and contemplation, or in joyous celebration of the lives lived and thankfulness of the sacrifices made. As Helen Keller so beautifully said, "So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good." Memories like these are easily stored, treasured and shared through online memorial sites such as Memories.

Time is precious and memories are irreplaceable. Build your Memorial Page with your families, treasure them forever, store them for everyone to access and contribute to. As we near Memorial Day this year, why not build your own online memorial? Using time together to treasure loved ones past, building memorials for those present and ensure memories are kept alive into the future. Visit our Memories Blog for ideas and inspiration


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