With the three-day weekend upon us, it's important to remind our kids (and ourselves) that Memorial Day is more than burgers and parades. It's a bittersweet occasion to remember those who protect our country now and did so in the past.
The holiday originated on May 30, 1868, when Union General John A. Logan declared the day (then called Decoration Day) as an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. A mere twenty years later, the name was changed to Memorial Day. On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. President Richard M. Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1971. Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of May.
To celebrate it, you might want to take the kids to a local military site (it could be a graveyard, museum, or historical venue) to chat about what it means to be in the military and the sacrifices each service person and their families make. Here's a list of links that explain what Memorial Day is all about:
1. This link from Apples4TheTeacher offers short stories about Memorial Day; they are appropriate for elementary school kids.
2. Visit Arlington National Cemetery online and show the kids how important this site is to our country.
3. This site, US Memorial Day, gives the full history of the holiday and explains why the red poppies are the symbol of veterans.
Oh, and watch this excellent YouTube video explaining Memorial Day:
I think it's important for kids to understand the sacrifices those in the armed forces have made and continue to make. Memorial Day reminds us that freedom comes at a price and that many have paid that price so that we can live free in our country today.
How will YOU celebrate this holiday?