About Memorial Day Sales vs. Its Meaning
I’m a little late in getting the article on Memorial Day Sales vs. Meaning written, and up onto the website. Sorry.
I had planned other articles, then a Facebook post I saw sort of changed my direction. This was a person thanking a veteran for their service. Face Palm! And the veteran, like every year, thanks them back, then posts a selfie, in uniform. This always makes my head explode. It makes me yearn to leave this planet. Then, of course, are the folks who think nothing more of this day of honor as mattress sales, grilling, the start of summer, a three day weekend, ad nauseam. (For the chemically dependent in Hemet, ad nauseam means “something that has been done or repeated so often that it has become annoying or tiresome,” not some new cocktail)
The meaning of Memorial Day has nothing to do with any of that.
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Memorial day began, got it’s start, was born as, Decoration Day near the end of the U.S. Civil War, in 1865.
The first people thought to celebrate it were freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina. It must have taken a good deal of bravery, as South Carolina was the birthplace of the rebellion! However, the official start to what would become a national holiday (it was only a local thing for the time being) was listed as Waterloo, New York, in 1966, by the federal government.
At the start, people decorated the graves of fallen Union soldiers from the Civil War. The Confederates had their own separate gig for their fallen dead, and it is still celebrated in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina, but all on separate days.
Memorial Day Becomes a Federal Holiday
1968 marks the year that the hodge-podge of memorial day like festivities actually became a recognized federal holiday. Initially Decoration Day was May 30th, as that date had no significant battles during the Civil War. After World War One this day was also called Remembrance Day, which we co-opted from the other allies.
The Federal Government then, in 1968, Congress, under the Nixon administration, passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which move Memorial Day to the last Monday in May. This had the effe3ct of granting all federal workers with a 3 day weekend. Other holidays were moved to Monday as well. Look over your schedule, you’ll see I’m right.
Some things Go Hand in Hand
Do you remember the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials? “You got peanut butter on my chocolate. No, you got chocolate in my peanut butter.” Goes great together, no?
Well, the three day weekend the Memorial Day created just happened to be at the perfect time to kick off summer. To grill. To go to the beach. But somehow it also became a great time for Memorial Day Sales.
If the this three day weekend had been for any other purpose, like, I dunno, Toe Cheese Day, or Blue Eyes Husky Dog Day, it would make no difference, it would be co-opted by sales, beach parties, and stints at the grill. In other words, Dad Bod Bob would still be wearing his “Kiss the Cook” apron at the beach holding a cold beer after shopping for a new mattress even if the holiday were called Castration Celebration Day. Sure, he might be leery of sharp objects and all, but still, bob is dauntless, a true warrior who never served.
Yet, the time of year, leaving winter behind and looking forward to the summer to come, and as a result, this holiday was ripe to become what it is: a prelude to fun and sun.
However, the focus of this day, this weekend, with the fun and the sun and the shopping, continues to be overlooked.
Flags – Parades – Decorations
Despite what that guy Larry says about beating anyone’s advertised price or your mattress is free. This is not a holiday about sales. I just googled the term Memorial Day Sales and you know what? You name it, there’s a sale for it. Inkjet supplies? Sale. Want a new Honda or Chevy, sale.
The purpose of this day was, originally mourning, and honoring those who donned our nation’s uniform and went into harm’s way, but never came back home. These service members died for our country. Wives and children, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and in some cases, husbands too. These people were left behind, bereft of their loved ones. However, the point of Memorial Day was to honor those who fell. That took the form of parades, tokens left at grave sites. Red poppies too, from the WW1 era. Millions of little flags at the graves of lost personnel, and large ones flying at half-staff, all commemorating those killed by bullets, blown apart by bombs, and so much more. Not mattresses.
How Many died?
Well, we know Memorial Day has its genesis in the Civil War, but now we look backwards and forwards in time from the 1860’s.
From 1775 to 2019, the total number of US service people who have died serving militarily is more than 1,354,664.That is the total of combat deaths, and other deaths, while serving. 755,000 of those were from both sides of the civil war alone, the single largest chunk! Interestingly, though, only 214,938 of those were in combat. The rest were disease, suicides, accidents, murders, etc. One can clearly see why the Civil War was the genesis of Memorial, nee, Remembrance day.
Yes They Died for our Freedoms
Sure, many died obeying orders. Many died to save their comrade in arms from dying. But all in all, they all died for our freedoms. They went in harm’s way for you. Sure, it was their jobs, but there are easier ways to make a living than as cannon fodder. These were real people, with hopes, dreams, pains and joys, yet they did “seen their duty and they done it.”
But you know what? These people died so that you, me, and our families, could have the liberty to enjoy our freedoms, as well as have a three day weekend now and again. We DO have the liberty to grill when we want. We CAN enjoy an ice cold beer awhile doing do. We CAN enjoy the beach and the summer like warmth.
But do us all a favor: Thank them with your reverence. And don’t thank a veteran who is alive for their service on this day. Do that abundantly on Veterans Day. Shoot, every day BUT Memorial Day. Those who gave their all, and their last, deserve that day.
Rest well soldiers. All is well, sailors. We thank you for your sacrifice.
Day is done, Gone the sun,
From the lake, From the hill,
From the sky.
All is well, Safely rest,
God is nigh.
My Final Words
My last thoughts on this are that, this may be the best year yet, at least in my lifetime, for Memorial Day sales. Think about it, we’re coming out of a pandemic. Or, maybe Covid will stick around for a while. The economy is down, to be sure. Merchants are struggling. These sales, this time around, could be just the thing, or one of many things, that help spur on our economy.
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