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Don't forget the real reason we celebrate Memorial DayPosted Wednesday, May 26, 2010, at 9:53 AM
They may have officially changed the name of our late May holiday to Memorial Day but my grandparents always called it Decoration Day.
I grew up knowing it was the day to decorate graves with flowers. After that deed was done, there was always a cookout with family and friends. Then the radio would be turned up loud to listen to the 500 -- it seemed to last all afternoon in those days.
For several years, I went along for the ride through the country with my Grandma Goodwin to do the decorating -- with lots of bouquets spread across the back seat of her big boat car with giant fins. It was called a DeSoto.
The first stop was the church cemetery at a place she called "Old Tulip," not to be confused with "New Tulip." Then we'd go to the Calvertville Cemetery up on a hill, and I remember the last stop was always the old section of the Worthington Cemetery.
At each place, she'd place flowers near stones that said Goodwin and Shields and Jessup then walk around through the cemetery looking at other names and talking about people I didn't know.
Decoration Day did become a day to decorate all graves, but it started out as the day to remember the dead of the Civil War and to honor their souls with flowers strewn upon their resting places.
Through the years, with more wars, it became the day to remember those lost in any war and eventually people started remembering all of their ancestors as well.
Looking back through the pages of an old newspaper, I read about Decoration Day in Worthington early in the last century.
The townfolks would all gather on the Triangle in the morning to walk to the cemetery together in a parade. Boys and men dressed up in their finest suits, many carried flags, and girls and women wore their best dresses and carried flowers.
Besides color guards, a band led the way with patriotic music.
Once at the cemetery, flags and flowers were placed on the graves of service members whose lives were lost in the service of their country, the band would play and people gave speeches (probably way too many speeches). Children recited poems and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
It was all followed by picnics in the park.
That tradition was before my time.
Today, Decoration Day, now Memorial Day, isn't even on May 30 anymore -- it's the last Monday in May. No band will play in the cemetery, the whole town won't be dressed up, and kids won't be memorizing their piece of the program.
But the veterans will make sure all service members have a little flag on their grave and the cemetery will be a most colorful place with flowers on the majority of the graves, not just veterans.
Memorial Day is a wonderful holiday. It's become the weekend that marks the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation. How could one not look forward to Memorial Day?
But Memorial Day is just like Christmas in that we seem to be forgetting the real meaning for the holiday.
Have a good weekend, and don't forget to remember the reason for the celebration.
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Anna Rochelle is editor of the Greene County Daily World and can be reached by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the office at 812-847-4487.
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