While nowadays Memorial Day is often marked with a barbecue and sleeping in, it has a very solemn history. On May 5, 1868, General John Logan designated May 30 Decoration Day, a day to decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War. That first year, five thousand people showed up to decorate twenty thousand graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
Decoration Day took a little while to catch on. In 1873, New York was the first state to recognize the new holiday. Southern states refused to officially acknowledge the day until after World War One, when the holiday became generalized to honor all the war dead, not just those who died in the Civil War. In 1971, the National Holiday Act standardized Memorial Day to be the last Monday in May.
So how should we decorate our homes for such a day? Your mantel doesn’t have to be a downer. It can be bright and uplifting, with a certain amount of patriotism and respect. Here are a few ideas.
Understated with Poppies
Humanitarian and Professor Moina Michael wrote a poem that popularized wearing red poppies on Memorial Day. Red, of course, is symbolic of blood spilled on battlefields. But a few vases of red poppies – or a large, single vase – are a beautiful, subtle tribute to those who died in wars.
Do you love red, white and blue? Does the local party store call your name at every holiday? Then you’re a candidate for the all-out patriot mantel. Bunting, stars, balloons, pom poms and metallic burst decorations will transform your mantel into a glitzy shrine to America. Add a wooden American flag painting or patriotic quote and you’ve got the perfect mantel to show off your die-hard patriotism.
A Personal Memorial
If you’re one of the many Americans with a family member who sacrificed his or her life for our country, you may opt for a more personal memorial. Combine a few red, white and blue elements with photos of your beloved. You could also celebrate vets in your family, who made plenty of sacrifices while still surviving. Add special items they owned, such as a favorite belt buckle, knife or pipe. Finish your mantel with an appropriate quote. Here are a few contenders for Memorial Day:
“Who kept the faith and fought the fight; The glory theirs, the duty ours.” – Wallace Bruce
“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” — Lee Greenwood
Whatever you do on Memorial Day, remember the National Moment of Remembrance at three p.m. local time. Pause and observe a moment of respect and remembrance in your own way.
At Old World Stoneworks, we’ll be thinking of all the ways people have sacrificed themselves for our country – and all the people who still are.