Memorial Day flowers on family grave site tradition

Flowers on grave site for Memorial Day

Cat Little Yellow checks out cross flowers to be placed on grave side for Memorial Day.

Memorial Day flowers on the family grave site has been a tradition in my family forever. This year was no exception.

Memorial Day flowers for family grave site a tradition

Memorial Day flowers for family grave site a tradition.

Now that both my parents have joined my paternal grandparents and a host of other ancestors in the family plot, making sure flowers are strategically placed on the grave is one way to honor them and all they did for me, and that was tons. My Mom was my best friend for years. As I live in the old family homestead, there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.

I usually go out the day after Memorial Day to look for the markdowns for the next year, as the Evergreen Cemetery allows plastic flowers. Up here in rural New England, it would be a stretch for fresh flowers to escape a killing frost the last Monday in May.

Cats check out Memorial Day flowers for family grave site

As I pulled out the flowers, my 5 felines couldn’t help check them out. I was thankful the white lilies were plastic because lilies are bad news for cats. Beautiful as they are, they can be deadly for cats. Check out Paws article on Easter Lillies can be deadly for cats.

Cats check put flowers to be put on Memorial Day grave site.

Cats check out flowers for Memorial Day grave site.

I can remember when Memorial Day was May 30, every year. I admit, I like the idea of a long weekend, giving an extra day for the endless yard work. The kitties like it too, as they get another day they can be supervised with time outside. Turns out it became law in 1971. I remember people saying how can you change Memorial Day to be a Monday holiday? It will lose it meaning, and become an excuse for a long weekend.

When I Googled where the concept of putting flowers on everyone’s graves came from, it really wasn’t clear. Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868. There’s some controversy over where it first began. Was it in Columbus, MI or Columbus, GA.? Southerners started placing flowers on the graves of Confederate Soldiers who had given their lives in the Civil War. As Yankees were buried in those same cemeteries, flowers were then spread on all soldiers who had died in the Civil War. In May 1868, the day became a federal holiday. But there were few, if any, flowers blooming in the North in April, and it was moved to May 30, so that people could decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with wildflowers. Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.

Cats like the idea of placing flowers on the family grave site on Memorial Day.

Cats like the idea of placing flowers on the family grave site on Memorial Day.

This is a pretty major point. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

Where did placing Memorial Day flowers on family grave site come from?

While we didn’t find where placing flowers on our family plot came from, we did find where the traditional sale of poppies originated during World War I. Our research found that in 1915, following the Second Battles of Ypres, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a physician with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, wrote the poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’, referring to the fields of poppies that grew among the soldiers’ graves in Flanders.

In 1918, inspired by the poem, Moina Michael, of the YMCA, attended a YWCA Overseas War

Cats check put flowers to be put on Memorial Day grave site.

Cats check put flowers to be put on Memorial Day grave
site.

Secretaries’ conference wearing a silk poppy pinned to her coat and distributed over two dozen more to others present. In 1920, the National American Legion adopted it as their official symbol of remembrance. While I have seen the practice this year, admittedly, it’s the first time I’ve see poppies for sale for years.

We continue to be curious why we’ve put flowers on the family plot on Memorial Day. We found one reference to putting flowers on graves dating back to ancient Rome, to create a comforting environment in which the deceased’s spirit could wander around the grave. While no research confirmed this, Paws believes the practice spread to all grave sites so that the graves would not appear barren with others beside it well decorated. It is a day where we can recognize and honor those that have played an importance part in our lives, and the Paws household, including the cats, are glad to carry on the tradition.

Do you place flowers on the family plot for Memorial Day? How long have you been doing this? Do your cats help out? My cats love all kinds of flowers, including the plastic ones. Please share your thoughts.

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BJ Bangs

BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.

2 Responses

  1. BJ Bangs says:

    We are lucky enough up here in Maine to leave them out till after Labor Day. I also planted a rose bush on the grave site, but it’s spotty as to when it will bloom. The plastic ones stay nice all summer. Thanks for sharing because I think this custom may be something that isn’t done that much anymore, but I could be wrong.

  2. Ellen Pilch says:

    Excellent post, I always wondered how we started putting flowers on all our loved ones graves instead of just those that died in a war. I think all our loved ones should be remembered with flowers. I leave them on my Dad’s grave and my husband’s parents’ grave and my Mom leaves them for her parents. I am sorry you lost your Mom, I am very close with mine and losing her is my biggest fear. I am in Massachusetts, I use the silk flowers because I am too lazy to go to the cemetery to water them daily as we can leave them out until July 4th.

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