Memorial Day represent a lot of things to different people. For many of us, it kicks off summer and the beginning of barbecue season. For others, it signals a great time to shop for sales on appliances, mattresses, and electronics. But let us not forget the reason we celebrate Memorial Day in the first place.
Memorial Day is the day we honor the brave men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. Originally called Decoration Day, the tradition was that families would visit and care for the graves of their loved ones who they lost in the Civil War. This usually occurred during spring and summer. Many families would organize picnics and family reunions around the day. It wasn't until 1971 that Memorial Day became a national holiday by act of Congress. Now officially celebrated on the last Monday of May.
It's also the day when you find Veterans groups selling poppies outside supermarkets and malls. While wearing one honors those we lost in war, it does beg the questions: How did poppies become the symbol of those soldiers who died in battle or as a result of wounds suffered in battle?
According to the Farmer's Almanac, “In war-torn battlefields, the red field poppy (papaver rhoeas) was one of the first plants to grow. Its seeds scattered in the wind and sat dormant in the ground, only germinating when the ground is disturbed—as it was during the brutal fighting of World War 1.
The practice of wearing of poppies was further inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields," written in 1915 by Canadian soldier John McCrae. McCrae had noticed how quickly poppies grew on the graves of soldiers who had died at the Second Battle of Ypres.
Today, poppies are as much a symbol of loss of life as it is a symbol of recovery and new life, especially in support of those servicemen who were damaged physically or emotionally.
In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae, May 1915
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.
Let's never forget the brave soldiers who paid the ultimate price for the freedom many of us take for granted today.
Our office will be closed for Memorial Day.