Christ-followers understand the importance of memorials. God himself ordered monuments set up as reminders of important events, like the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
But what about this holiday called Memorial Day? What’s it all about? How should we celebrate it?
Memorial celebrations for fallen soldiers have existed since ancient times. When this holiday was first observed in the United States, it was to honor those who gave their lives during the Civil War.
A general first proposed this holiday in May of 1868. He gathered a group of 5,000 witnesses at the Arlington cemetery, and they decorated all the tombstones of the men (20,000 from both sides of the conflict) who had paid the ultimate price during the War Between the States.
It’s no surprise then that the earliest name for this holiday was Decoration Day. As the photo below shows, the graves in Arlington’s National Cemetery are still decorated with flags on this day.
While many states celebrated the holiday in the 1870s, it didn’t become a national holiday until 1971. The original date of May 30th was changed in 1968 legislation when all observances of national holidays were moved to Mondays.
In the words of the holiday’s founder, General John Logan, this is the purpose of Decoration/Memorial Day:
“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.”
Do You Remember?
I know my grandmother diligently took flowers to put on the graves of my grandfather and uncles who were military veterans. They didn’t die in combat, but they had served their country during wartime.
Most cemeteries in our area decorate tombstones with flags on Memorial Day. I’m sure the military cemetery where my mother rests, waiting for my stepfather-a veteran of Vietnam- to join her, waves with Old Glory on this holiday.
But how often have I stopped to remember the sacrifice made by so many brave men and women down through history?
Too often I’m planning a family barbecue for this day. After all, none of us have to go to work. Let’s get together for food and fun.
Why can’t we stop and take a moment to praise our Lord for those willing to fight for freedom?
In 2000, Congress passed legislation that sets 3:00 pm on Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance. Would you offer a minute of silent tribute to those soldiers who gave their all for liberty?