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View Diary: May 30th: Tradition and Commemoration (13 comments)

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  •  I've heard all those stories (5+ / 0-)

    About the origins of Memorial Day--it seems that it was already an established custom in the South, and probably other rural areas, to pick a day in spring to go to the local cemetery--and often VERY local (as in a family graveyard)--tidy things up and leave some flower remembrances on the graves. I believe the former slaves who decorated the Union graves at the race track in South Carolina were following that custom, as were many others North and South. And since there were so very many new graves to take care of, combined with efforts, both official and not, in the decades after the war to find and re-inter the remains of the soldiers on forsaken battlefields, that the result was Memorial Day, which gradually became formalized and finally took place officially on May 30th. Finally in 1968 the holiday was legally assigned to the last Monday in May.

    Glad you know about your ancestor's Civil War service. I know I have an ancestral relative on my dad's father's side who served and was wounded or killed, but have not been able to track down just who it was.

    If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

    by pimutant on Thu May 30, 2013 at 08:39:14 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Lost in the mists of history (5+ / 0-)

      Grave decorating customs are interesting but poorly recorded.  There is a citation of Pennsylvania Dutch women cleaning the small graveyards and decorating them with lilacs on Pentecost Monday ("Pingster") - having nothing to do with war dead.  Also, a few places in Russia have revived a Pentecost grave decoration tradition. That may be related to the fact that All Saints Day in the Eastern Orthodox Church is a week after Pentecost.  Catholic countries around the world (and still in Creole Louisiana) really go all out at All Saints-All Souls November 1 and 2 with grave decorating, family gatherings and meals in cemeteries.  I suspect grave visitation and decoration as a cultural/community activity is a very old custom. I have mixed feelings about Memorial Day excluding commemoration of the civilian dead, or for that matter, veterans now deceased who did not die in combat.

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