In the United States the first “memorial day” was observed in 1865 by freed slaves at the historic Charleston race track, the site of a former Confederate prison camp — and a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died while captive. The freed slaves re-interred the dead Union soldiers from the mass grave to individual graves, fenced in the graveyard and built an entry arch declaring it a Union graveyard; a very daring thing to do in the South shortly after North’s victory.
On May 30 1886, or thereabouts, the freed slaves returned to the beautify graveyard with flowers they had picked from the countryside and decorated the individual gravesites, thereby creating the 1st “Decoration Day”. A parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic. It is interesting that in the South the holiday has been called “Decoration Day.” In the north, where I was raised, we always had a big parade, patriotic displays — and a big picnic!
I hope you will take time on Memorial Day and throughout the week to give thanks for those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Especially, put a face – or faces – on the holiday as you remember friends and loved ones who are part of that number. I know I will be doing that – tearfully and gratefully!