Monday, May 31, 2010

Putting The Decoration Back In Decoration Day

The point of the Memorial Day holiday was to give people time to go out to the graves of the fallen soldiers and decorate them.

It's a Victorian-era notion, and hints at a fascination with death. Cemeteries built during the time were designed to be park-like in setting, and it wasn't unheard of for families to pack a picnic lunch and head out to Calvary or Mt. Olivet to spend the day communing with loved ones long gone.

You'll still find the elderly out there on a Sunday, snipping strands of grass away from a tombstone. Planting a few geraniums.

Tending to a grave, rather than abandoning it, is taken as a sign of love and respect.

Hence, the American military sees to it that every soldier's grave in the national cemeteries is decorated with a small flag on Memorial Day. It takes effort to accomplish the task, and by making that effort, the country expresses its love and respect for those who gave their lives so that others could live in freedom.

If you're not of a mind to head out to the graveyard with Grandma to plant petunias above Granddad, then you might consider decorating yourself. The tradition of the poppy as decoration to honor the war dead came out of World War I, a long ago conflict that was largely forgotten by the greater evils that arose in the second go-round.

Buy a poppy from the nice lady representing the war veterans and twist it into a buttonhole or wear it on your hat. Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so you wouldn't have to.

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