Hello! I didn’t know if you would come by for coffee since it is Memorial Day Weekend, but I’m glad you did! It is such a beautiful day. Why don’t we sit out on the front porch at the table and we can have our morning beverages? Here….help me carry the pots. Thanks!
Tell me what you’re doing this holiday weekend? Oh, you are going to your family home in Floyd County! That county is right next to the county where my mother’s family came from. Are you taking flowers and going to a family cemetery? Yes, I know. My family cemetery is on top of a hill too. Also a private cemetery. So many of my ancestors are buried on top of one hill or another in Magoffin County in private cemeteries. The family all chips in every year to keep them maintained. So do you? That’s just the way in Eastern Kentucky, isn’t it? Very few of my relatives are buried in the public cemeteries in the area. Oh, you call Memorial Day Decoration Day, do you? So many people do in Appalachia. There is a whole story behind Decoration Day.
Memorial Day was originated as Decoration Day in 1868. It was established by the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union Veterans of the Civil War, to honor all the Civil War dead. An earlier Memorial Day, in 1866, was celebrated by women of the Confederacy in Columbus, Mississippi.
Memorial Day, or Decoration Day was celebrated on May 30 no matter what day of the week that date fell on. The families of the war dead usually celebrated the holiday by placing flowers on their graves. Gradually, Decoration Day included all war dead, not just Civil War dead. In 1971, Decoration Day, then called Memorial Day was designated a national holiday and was to be celebrated the last Monday of May.
In Appalachia and in most of the South, the tradition of the holiday did not change. It is still called Decoration Day and still celebrated on the Sunday before the last Monday of May. It’s an important holiday in Appalachia. Relatives of the war dead come home to the region from far-flung places to place flowers on the graves of their relatives and to see relatives still living in the area. It is a tradition that the cemeteries are cleaned and mowed, graves are cleaned up and weeds are cut, and everything is made to look nice for the holiday. All types of flowers are placed upon the graves from live to cut, artificial, and silk. Flags are placed on the graves of veterans. Usually, a big meal is eaten at some relative’s home and a lot of visiting takes place. In Eastern Kentucky, at least, relatives are buried in private cemeteries all around and through a county, or several counties. A lot of driving and walking up hills to private cemeteries is required. You can’t even get a car up to where this writer’s grandparents and great-grandparents are buried.
Church services are often conducted in the local churches on Decoration Day. Some families celebrate it as a secular holiday. It seems that one of Americans’ favorite events on Memorial Day is attending one of the parades in thousands of cities and towns.
I’ve enjoyed having coffee with you today! I hope you enjoy Memorial Day!
*Image provided by Simon Howden #freedigitalphotos.net
**Thanks to parttimemonster.com for providing the linkup for #weekendcoffeeshare!
What a lovely introduction and explanation of your traditions – thank you! Wishing you all the best this weekend.
This is a great reminder of what Memorial Day is all about. Thank you so much for this!
You cover the history of Memorial Day fairly well. I know it as Decoration Day when flowers were put on my family graves. Later it became Memorial Day to honor our veterans.