May 29, 2016 by Jeff Lowen
Originally called Decoration Day, now Memorial Day, was initiated to honor the soldiers for the Union and Confederate armies who died during the American Civil War.
Officially signifying the beginning of Summer, friends and families share in the festivities throughout the nation.
Here’s some of the most common Memorial Day traditions that are still practiced in the United States today:
- Every Memorial Day, the U.S. flag is quickly raised to the tops of flagpoles, slowly lowered to half-mast, and then raised again to full height at noon. The time at half-mast is meant to honor the million-plus fallen U.S. soldiers who have died for their country over the years. Re-raising the flag is meant to symbolize the resolve of the living to carry on the fight for freedom so that the nation’s heroes will not have died in vain.
- It is very common to visit cemeteries, particularly military cemeteries, at this time of year to decorate the graves. Small American flags, flowers, and wreathes are commonly placed by the tombstones.
- On the U.S. Capitol Building’s West Lawn, a Memorial Day concert is held annually. The musical performances are broadcast live around the country on PBS t.v. and NPR radio. Attendance is free, but most watch or listen from at home.
- There are literally thousands of Memorial Day parades all across the country in cities small and large. Typically, you will see marching bands, National Guardsmen, other Armed Forces members, and military vehicles from past U.S. wars.
- Many will wear or put on display red poppies on this day as a symbol of fallen soldiers. This tradition grew out of the famous poem by Canadian John McCrae known as In Flander’s Fields, which he was inspired to write upon seeing red poppies growing over the graves of World War I soldiers. You may well hear this poem’s opening lines quoted on Memorial Day:
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row”
Make sure you savor a moment to honor our heroes that have given their lives, as you enjoy the activities, events and demonstrations.