Many people think of Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial beginning of summer or a time to reconnect with family and friends. The true meaning and importance of Memorial Day are much more than that. Memorial Day observances originated at the end of the Civil War, originally called Decoration Day, but it became a national holiday in 1971. The intention of the holiday is to honor American soldiers who died while serving in the military. This year, most official parades and celebrations are canceled as are many private celebrations. Here are 7 ways you can observe Memorial Day this year.
1. Observe a moment of silence
Many people may not realize that at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, people are encouraged to observe a moment of silence to remember and thank America’s military dead. This National Moment of Remembrance was first implemented in May of 2000 because polls showed the overwhelming majority of Americans did not know the meaning of Memorial Day. Take a moment to reflect upon the sacrifice our families, friends, and fellow Americans have made.
2. Attend a virtual or in-person commemoration
The VA conducts wreath-laying ceremonies at the national military cemeteries. Many of them will be live-streamed and shared on the VA's National Cemetery Administration's Facebook and Twitter pages. All VA national cemeteries will be open throughout Memorial Day weekend, and families will be allowed to place flags and personal remembrances at the graves of their family members. Visit your state’s Veterans Affairs Department’s website for plans for your particular area.
3. Fly a flag
On Memorial Day, flags are flown at half-staff until noon. Raise your flag to full-staff in the morning and then slowly lower it to half-staff. Flags remain at half-staff until noon when they are briskly raised and flown until dusk. If your flag cannot be raised or lowered, tie a black ribbon around the top of the staff, just below the ornament.
4. Donate to a military organization
One way to honor our fallen soldiers is to donate to organizations that improve the lives of current soldiers and veterans. There are many reputable organizations that provide a wide range of services. Make sure to choose an organization that receives a high rating from such organizations as the American Institute of Philanthropy, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, or Charity Watch.
5. Watch the National Memorial Day Concert
The concert is broadcast every year on the eve of Memorial Day. This year, it will be broadcast on Sunday, May 29, from 8:30 to 10 p.m. CST and on May 30th at 12:30 p.m. on PBS. In addition to music, the event features documentary footage and readings that honor all our people in uniform and their families.
6. Write a letter
Several organizations match writers with military personnel pen pals. You can also write letters of gratitude to be included in care packages sent to soldiers. Organize your family members or a group to write letters of gratitude this Memorial Day. Make sure to choose a reputable organization such as A Million Thanks or Operation Gratitude.
7. Spend time with family
Set aside the day to spend time with the family members in your home and reflect upon what it means to you to live in America today. If you have family members who have served, thank them for their service and honor them. Though this is a solemn national holiday, it is absolutely a day to enjoy the beautiful weather and the company of others, whether you do that in person or virtually.
If your Memorial Day celebrations include a traditional picnic, even on a small scale, make sure to include tasty treats along with the healthy fare. Superberries Frozen Aroniaberries are delicious in desserts as well as cool frozen treats such as homemade popsicles and sorbets.