I’m sure that you have noticed all of the sales that suddenly appeared over the last week or so. What could make so many businesses from car dealers to department stores and beyond have another big sale? The answer is obvious, but is it justified? The reason given for such spectacular sales is supposed to be celebrating Memorial Day.
I’m sorry, but that is not the purpose for which Memorial Day was declared. It is time to look back and see exactly why we celebrate Memorial Day.
According to History.com Memorial Day was first celebrated in Waterloo, NewYork. “Waterloo – which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1886 – was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.” “On May 5,1868, General John Logan, leader of an organization for northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month.
Here is the official proclamation Logan made “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Apparently he picked the date because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle and he called it Decoration Day.
In 1968 congress established the last Monday in May as Memorial Day with the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The result created a three-day weekend for federal employees which officially began in 1971.
The annual tradition of placing flags on the graves of fallen soldiers continues today and is most impressive at the Arlington National Cemetery just outside of Washington, D.C. in Arlington, Virginia.
The flag became a symbol of our nation a long time ago, but do you know how it really happened? According to the website History of the America “On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed an act establishing an official flag for the new nation. The resolution stated ‘Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.’ On August 3, 1949, President Harry S. Truman official declared June 14 as flag day.”
There is no real proof concerning the origin of the flag. It is thought by many that the flag sewn by seamstress Betsy Ross was originally designed by New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson. I have also read that Betsy Ross made more flags over time for the country. Another piece of flag trivia is that the plan was to add a stripe whenever another state was added to the union, but it was determined that the flag would become very cumbersome and too large to handle so the stripes remained at thirteen and the stars were increased each time a new state joined the union.
When I was growing up the flag contained only 48 stars since Alaska and Hawaii were not states yet. They waited until both became states before changing the stars on the flag so that they would remain an even number, otherwise an odd number of stars would be difficult to arrange in rows. Now, of course, our flag has 50 stars in the blue field lined up in even rows.
As I have mentioned before, I am a member of the Eugene Downtown Lions Club. One of the programs sponsored by Lions Clubs International is called Flags for First graders and I feel privileged to be the one in our club who takes the flags and gives them out to elementary school youngsters. I discuss the history of the flag and the meaning of the words of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” For our National holidays, especially the ones celebration our country’s history I make sure to fly the flag over my front porch.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].