What's the Point of Memorial Day?

What's the Point of Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is more than just grilled brats and cold brewskis.

It's finally here. The big kickoff to sunburn and mosquito bites. Take a sniff and you'll smell the aroma of burgers sizzling on a grill. Food, friends, family, fun—that's what Memorial Day is all about… or is it? Maybe we should rewind and see how this whole holiday got started.

We need to go back about 150 years. The Civil War ended in the spring of 1865, the deadliest war American's fought in to date, claiming 618,222 lives. With that high of a death toll, something needed to be done with all the bodies—hence the creation of the country's first national cemeteries.

All those fallen soldiers left a lot of loved ones behind, and by the late 1860's lots of towns began holding tributes for those men. Those tributes included decorating graves and reciting prayers at the grave sites. This new tradition became known as Decoration Day.

Decoration Day was typically observed on May 30th, but in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a 3 day weekend for federal employees and declared it a federal holiday. So why the name change? Well, it was gradual, first in use in 1882, becoming more popular after WWII, and declared the official name when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed into law.

The point of Memorial Day is to remember and honor those men and women who fought and died to keep our country free—whether you agree with the idea of war or not. But if you just can't shoehorn in a visit to the cemetery this weekend, here are some other practical ways you can celebrate this holiday as the creators intended…

  • Thank a veteran. Often during church on Sunday the pastor will as those who've served to stand up. Make it a point to thank them afterwards.
  • Visit Operation Gratitude, a website that offers ideas and tangible things you can do to thank and/or support someone currently in the military.
  • Fly a U.S. flag at half-staff until noon.
  • Buy some carnations and visit a nearby national cemetery. Walk through and find a grave that has no flowers. Leave one of yours and say a prayer for the family of that person, who for whatever reason was not able to visit.
  • Visit Any Soldier and make a care package to send to someone currently serving.

Those are just a few ideas. At the very least, take a minute or two to pray and thank God for His provision for peace in our land. Yeah, there's crime and terrorists and whatnot, but for the most part, we are a very blessed country