Four Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day as a Family
by Lindsey Paholski
Memorial Day, always the last Monday in May, remembers and honors the men and women of the Armed Forces who died while serving their country. It began as Decoration Day after the Civil War when families gathered around gravesites to remember their deceased loved ones who had served and died in the war. In the 20th century, the celebration expanded to include deceased military members from all wars, and the government declared the day a federal holiday in 1967.
Today, many families and volunteers lay flags, flowers and wreaths on graves, whether or not their loved ones served in a war. The holiday also marks the start of summer. It’s an excellent opportunity for you to honor fallen military personnel and teach your kids about history as you participate in different activities with your family.
Honor Fallen Heroes
Because of the holiday’s focus on veterans who died while serving their country, spend time honoring soldiers. Many communities hold parades and services, and you can take your family to those events. Wear patriotic colors, wave flags and salute the flag and the veterans who march. If possible, march in the parade or play in a patriotic band as you remember the fallen heroes.
Host a Celebration
Most communities celebrate Memorial Day with a public ceremony, concert or other event, but yours might be an exception. If so, organize your own event. Obtain a permit to play patriotic music on the square. Walk through a cemetery and lay flags on the headstones of veterans. Visit a local battlefield or write and perform a skit that commemorates a local or national military hero. Invite military veterans and their families to a potluck or ice cream social, and have them talk about their experiences. As you host celebrations, you remember the men and women who served and you keep their memory alive.
The holiday primarily celebrates soldiers who have died during wars, but you can also use the day to support current military members and their families. They lay their lives on the line every day, so make an effort to send care packages to military men and women or support families of fallen soldiers. As your family serves together, you honor current soldiers and remember the sacrifice so many made.
Have a Picnic
After the ceremonies are over, invite your friends over for the first picnic of the season. Grill burgers and hot dogs, make your famous pasta salad and invite your friends to bring fruit, desserts and beverages. Plan a few games, run through the sprinkler and enjoy the day together.
Go for a Swim
In addition to celebrating members of the Armed Forces, Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer vacation season. Most pools and lakes open for the season this weekend, so pack up the family and go swimming. Remember to take sunscreen, beach towels, toys and a picnic lunch. You’ll also want to brush up on swim safety and be prepared for crowds since many of your neighbors will be headed in the same direction.
What traditions does your family celebrate on Memorial Day? This year, make it a memorable occasion as you remember the military heroes who gave their lives for your freedoms. Then gather with friends, family members and veterans to celebrate the holiday that’s been a national tradition for over a century and a half.