Memorial Day traditions are varied. Designed as a day to reflect upon those that gave their lives to defend the United States, it is a time to give reverence to the oh so many who perished in war.

Servicemen, servicewomen and service dogs, all sacrificed their lives to defend the United States. While Veteran’s Day celebrates all veterans, Memorial Day is in honor of those that gave their lives to defend our freedom. And don’t think of Memorial Day as something from way back in history, there are many in harm’s way as we read this post today, and there undoubtedly will unfortunately be many more in the future.

Memorial Day Traditions
Memorial Day traditions from serious to not so serious. Here Lenny gives his respect to the flag.

No doubt, many were in the wrong place at the wrong time lost their lives. We have no record of any cats that might have helped, but there’s a lot of history that is never recorded. A cat could well have saved someone from being killed, alarming them of an upcoming enemy. Prior to 2000, little thought was given to the special bond between pets and their humans.

Memorial Day Traditions are varied

Many of us take advantage of Memorial Day as an excuse for a long-weekend, with a few more precious hours to be spent with the kitties, and the mushrooming amount of lawn work that awaits us homeowners for the summer season. Some take advantage of this extra time in our increasingly busy schedules to get away, go camping, visit friends, or take a road trip.

Memorial Day Traditions

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Memorial Day Traditions

The fourth Monday in May, Memorial Day will be observed across the country with flags, decorated graves honoring those that died in service, barbecues, family get-togethers, and a day off from work. Some will take the time to reflect on those that gave their lives in honor of this country. Most of us will take a much-needed reprieve from life’s every day frenzy and celebrate the beginning of summer.

Where did Memorial Day come from?

As a history buff, Paws had been pondering how Memorial Day came to be. It appears that Memorial Day sprung out of the Civil War, an event that tore the country apart. It was a divisive event that eventually unified the country, at least physically. Even though the USA was one country by law, it remained socially divided until the latter part of the 20th century. Some of those unhealed wounds remain today. If you don’t believe it, talk with a person with real strong Confederate or Yankee sentiments.

Originally called Decoration Day, it is uncertain where the day actually started. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the home of the original Memorial Day. Evidence points to women’s groups in the South decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.

‘Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping’

A hymn published in 1867, ‘Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping’, by Nella L. Sweet was dedicated to the ladies of the south who were decorating graves of the confederate dead.

The hymn goes like this:

Kneel where our loves are sleeping,

Dear one’s days gone by,

Here we bow in holy reverence,

Our bosoms heave the heartfelt sigh.

They fell like brave men, true as steel,

And pour’d their blood like rain,

We feel we owe them all we have,

And can but weep and kneel again.

Chorus:

Kneel where our loves are sleeping,

They lost but still were good and true,

Our fathers, brothers fell still fighting,

We weep, ’tis all that we can do.

Verse 2:

Here we find our noble dead,

Their spirits soar’d to him above,

Rest they now about his throne,

For God is mercy, God is love.

Then let us pray that we may live,

As pure and good as they have been,

That dying we may ask of him,

To open the gate and let us in.

(Repeat Chorus)

Kneel where our loves are sleeping,

They lost but still were good and true,

Our fathers, brothers fell still fighting,

We weep, ’tis all that we can do.

Decoration Day

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of an organization composed of Union Veterans – the Grand Army of the Republic – in his General Order No. 11. He declared May 30 as Decoration Day, a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers, a time when flowers would be in bloom across the country.

Decoration Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1873, New York became the first state to observe the holiday, and by 1890 all northern states had followed suite. However, the South refused to celebrate Memorial Day until after World War I when it was changed from honoring Americans that had died fighting in any war, not just the Civil War. There’s some controversy over where it began. Was it in Columbus, MI or Columbus, GA.? In May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Waterloo, NY the birthday of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day Traditions: The Red Poppy

American teacher Moina Michael came up with an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day. The cause was near and dear to her. Born in Good Hope, Georgia, in 1869, her father was Confederate veteran John Marion Michael.

Flander’s Fields

‘Flander’s Fields’, a poem by John McCrae, became very popular during what then called the Great War.  The poem refers to poppies that grew near the battlefields of that horrific conflict.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Poem: ‘We Shall Keep Faith’

She was so inspired by this poem that she published her own poem, ‘We Shall Keep Faith’.

We cherish too, the Poppy red,

That grows on fields where valor lead,

It seems to signal to the skies,

That blood of heroes never dies.

The French Poppy Lady

Memorial Day TraditionsShe also wanted to find a way to honor those who had died serving the nation during war. Reports state she sold them to friends and co-workers with the proceeds benefiting servicemen in need.

That custom was adopted by France’s Madam Guerin, who later became known as the French Poppy Lady, while visitin