Recently, my 6-year-old daughter asked, “Mom, when is the next holiday?” My mind immediately turned to the precious seven government holidays that most major employers offer their staff, and then narrowed in on ones that would mean something to her. Technically, the next holiday on the calendar is Memorial Day, but I wondered how best to explain this one to her, other than by simply telling her it’s another day she will have off from school.
For many children, and even adults, the meaning behind Memorial Day is lost. Like many people, I view it as simply another three-day weekend on the calendar. Helping my daughter understand the importance of Memorial Day is important though. After all, even her kindergarten report card includes a column for civics.
As I thought about how I could help her relate to Memorial Day, I immediately recalled our summer vacation to Washington D.C. and visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. The expansive tribute with so many flowers laid at its base meant little until we told her that her Grandpa had fought in this war. Suddenly, understanding that so many other grandpas didn’t come home gave the wall meaning. Now, I needed to decide how to follow this idea into the meaning of a national holiday …
Memorial Day Celebrations in Brevard County
Annual Memorial Day Celebration
Riverfront Park in Cocoa Village; Monday, May 28th, 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Every year, the City of Cocoa takes time to honor the fallen veterans of war with a guest speaker, special flag folding ceremony, 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, period costumes, a moment of silence, entertainment and more. Admission is free. For more information, contact Leisure Services at (321) 639-3500 or visit CocoaFL.org.
Museum Memorial Day Celebration
Liberty Bell Memorial Museum; 1601 Oak Street in Melbourne; Monday, May 28th, 11 a.m.
Join in front of the Liberty Bell Memorial Museum for massing of the colors, music by the Melbourne Municipal Band, poem readings and guest speaker. For more information call (321) 727-1776 or visit HonorAmerica.org.
Remembering & Honoring
Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who have fought to keep our country safe, and to honor and respect our armed forces and those who gave it all to make our lives better.
Discussions of war, loss and cemeteries can be heavy for little ones, but they are likely more aware than we know. I am reminded of my 4-year-old who commented as we toured Arlington National Cemetery during that same vacation, “This is where the dead people live.” His innocent attempt at understanding still makes me smile.
What are some things your family can do to help remember?
- Encourage children to take a moment of silence to remember lost friends or family.
- If you have a flagpole at your home, remember to lower the flag to half-mast.
- Plan a picnic or barbecue at your home or nearby park.
- Prepare special food dishes with a red, white and blue theme.
- Visit other families in your area who have lost someone close. Showing you care may lift them up.
- Have a sing along of some of our most patriotic songs.
Brush Up On The History Of Memorial Day
- May 5, 1866 - Henry Welles, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, suggested all shops close to allow people to honor those who had been lost during the Civil War.
- Similarly, Retired Major General Jonathan A. Logan planned a ceremony for soldiers who survived the Civil War. He took veterans through town to decorate the graves of comrades with flags. It was called Decoration Day.
- 1868 - The two ceremonies were joined together to be one. On this day, songs were sung, veterans would wear their uniforms and medals and visit cemeteries to remember the fallen, and townspeople would decorate with flags, flowers and photos.
- 1882 - The name Memorial Day was used and the day was made to be a remembrance to all soldiers who had died fighting for our country.
- 1971 - President Nixon declared Memorial Day, the last Monday in the month of May, to be a federal holiday.