Each year people in the United States take Memorial Day off of work and school. A common thing to do on Memorial Day weekend is gathering with friends and family or using the long weekend as an opportunity to do something extra special.
However, not everyone knows the history of this holiday or, better yet, how nature intrinsically links to honoring Memorial Day. Here, you’ll learn a brief history of Memorial Day. Plus, you will gain insight into ways you can celebrate while enjoying everything your home country has to offer.
History of Memorial Day
Always observed on the last Monday of May, the first Memorial Day celebration occurred less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. Though not the official end of the Civil War, this event would mark the beginning of the end of the lengthy conflict. Fittingly, the first Memorial Day celebrations were formerly organized by enslaved Black people in Charleston, SC. Later, the day became officially associated with Waterloo, New York.
The death toll of the Civil War necessitated America’s first federal graveyards, where fallen soldiers were laid to rest. Because of this, it became traditional for families to visit cemeteries with flowers to honor the efforts to protect freedom for all. General John A. Logan, a Northern Civil War veteran, said:
“The 30th of May…is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
Subsequently, Memorial Day was initially known as Decoration Day. It was used as a moment to pay respects and celebrate the freedom of all people in America. Today, many people still visit local cemeteries and memorials to adorn them with wreaths, flowers, flags, and notes of thanks.
Honoring Memorial Day in the Outdoors
The United States has some of the most beautiful and diverse natural landscapes in the world, featuring everything from sweltering hot deserts to snowy mountain peaks. One of the best parts of living in the U.S. is enjoying those beautiful views and spending time in the natural beauty of this country that belongs to us all. This Memorial Day, we encourage you to honor the efforts and lives of soldiers and honor your freedom by enjoying what nature has to offer.
Reconnect with Nature
Unplugging from your regular life and reconnecting with nature is a fantastic experience and can be accomplished with something as simple as getting outdoors. Fishing, camping, hiking, birdwatching, and all the things you can do when you take the time to enjoy nature are available at the state and national parks around the U.S. With protection to maintain natural plants and wildlife, these parks are the perfect place to get in touch with American nature.
Host Outdoor Family Gatherings
Getting together with family is a time-honored tradition for many Americans, especially since Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of Summer. Grilling, picnics, potlucks, eating in season, and outdoor sports are a popular way to pass the time on beautiful Memorial Day Mondays. Being with family can help remind you of what is most important in your life.
Attend Memorial Day Parades
Some cities and towns throw large parties and events to celebrate Memorial Day, including parades with floats from local businesses, leaders, and community organizations. Memorial Day Parades are a great place to connect with your community and a fun way to learn more about what is going on in your neighborhood. In addition, parades are a fun way to get outside while enjoying lots of entertainment, making them the perfect event for families with kids.
Visit Cemeteries & Memorials
If you want to celebrate the way our ancestors did, try visiting a cemetery or local Civil War memorial this Memorial Day. Bring flowers or flags to decorate, and be sure to talk about the history of American freedom and what we need to do to help future generations.
Getting outside and connecting with nature is one of the best ways to honor Memorial Day and an American tradition. A country known for its diverse landscapes, the U.S. has endless natural beauty to explore. So whether you enjoy a few hours walking through your city or unplug entirely and go camping, it’s your right to enjoy nature this Memorial Day weekend!