Friday, 30 May 2008

In Passing

The real Memorial Day


Memorial Day used to fall on May 30th, not the “last Monday in May.” What changed things was the Nixon-era National Holiday Act of 1971. The same law that turned the Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthday holidays into the amorphously generic “Presidents’ Day” made Memorial Day the tag end of just another three-day weekend.

My grandmother always called it “Decoration Day,” which was what it was all about: Placing flowers on the graves of soldiers fallen in (originally) the Civil War[1] and (after World War I) of any American who had died in any war.

There’s something about a mid-week holiday that heightens the sense of occasion- something we don’t get when the holiday is just the rain date for the Indianapolis 500. Congress may have realized this when, in 2000, it called for a “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3 pm every May 30th. Good start, but still not the same.

Memorial Day history, and information about efforts to restore the May 30 date, here.



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[1] Memorial Day on May 30th was initially observed only in the north.  States of the former Confederacy had (and in some cases still have) different days for honoring the Confederate dead.

Posted by: Old Grouch in In Passing at 20:56:33 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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