This is the third day of our three-day holiday weekend and it’s important in several ways.
First and foremost, Memorial Day is the day we decorate the resting places of all our deceased war veterans. Second, it is the unofficial beginning of Maine’s tourist season. And third, it is the birthday of my late grandmother, may she continue to rest in peace.
Originally Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and was established way back in 1868 to decorate the graves in Arlington Cemetery of soldiers from both the North and the South who died fighting the Civil War. An Army general proclaimed May 30th as the day to decorate all the gravesites.
The South refused to recognize the day and most Southern communities chose their own dates for the honor. In the 1870s New York State proclaimed May 30th as a state holiday and it wasn’t long before many other Northern states joined. It wasn’t until after World War I when the Congress officially declared the day Memorial Day to memorialize veteran’s of all American wars that Southern States accepted the day.
I heard on the WCSH-TV morning trivia question last week that Waterloo, NY, was officially proclaimed the first to celebrate, but the fact is that many places had been celebrating what we now call Memorial Day ever since the end of the Civil War. Memorial Day became the last Monday of the Month in 1971 when Congress change most holidays to give people the long weekend.
For about as long as I can remember, and probably a lot longer, Mainers not only celebrate the sacrifices made by our warriors but also began welcoming visitors to the state for the summer vacation season. We also used this time to open summer camps and make other preparations for what used to be the best time of the year in Maine. Even the fun at Old Orchard Beach opened full time on Memorial Day.
That season traditionally ended on Labor Day as camps were closed, OOB shutdown except for weekends for a little longer, and the visitors headed home. In recent years, of course, Maine has become a year-round destination as activities for the whole year became prevalent.
My grandmother was born in the 1870s on May 30th. We jokingly began to tell people she was born on the last Monday in May after the change 1971. It was an easy way to remember her birthday and give us a time to reflect of our lives with her. Naturally, her grave was included after she passed when we went to the cemetery for our decorations. I’ll bet all of us can still remember the many lessons in real life we learned and how to cope with those little setbacks from our grandparents. Today, even though it’s not officially her birthday, I officially honor the memory of this important person in my life.
Gator Wife and I will need to visit two cemeteries to honor our families. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to visit the graves of my parents who are buried in Florida.
Whatever your plans are for this holiday, whether they be opening your summer camp or just hanging out in the back yard with family and friends for a cookout, I hope you take just a moment to remember all the great Americans who made the supreme sacrifice to make this day possible for you.