Memorial Day

Photo taken in Gomel’, Belarus

It’s Memorial Day weekend and that’s an important holiday in the U.S. Memorial Day, also called Decoration Day in some areas, is a holiday that honors those soldiers lost to war. It’s been expanded in our consciousness to honor all of our deceased love ones. In the region of the U.S. where I have lived most of my life, it’s a special holiday. I live in the state of Kentucky in the U.S. which is located in the mid-southeastern region of the country. The area of the state in which I live is part of a larger region, the region of Appalachia. Here, Memorial Day falls on a weekend when families reunite, have large meals together and decorate the graves of their deceased loved ones with flowers. Veteran’s graves are also decorated with the U.S. flag. Across Appalachia, Memorial Day is most often called Decoration Day.

When I was growing up, and even now, the family would congregate where most of the relatives were buried. In my case, when I was a child, that was near my grandparent’s home deep in the heart of Appalachia and about 55 miles from where I live now. Every individual family within the extended family would bring beautiful flowers and flags to decorate each grave. Often, that would involve going to three or four cemeteries.

Memorial Day at the cemetery was also a social occasion. Families who seldom saw each other would have a chance to talk and catch up while decorating the graves.

During Memorial Day, everyone would go to my grandmother’s house for a large meal and a visit with each other afterward. It was one of the most important family holidays of the year.

We still honor our lost loved ones in Appalachia in much the same way. Families are smaller. There are fewer large family meals. Instead of meals in grandma’s kitchen, they are often prepared on the grill where each individual family lives. You will still find people hunting flowers a few days before the Memorial Day weekend to decorate gravesites. They still enjoy visiting with family and friends in and around the cemeteries and some people travel in order to decorate the graves.

No matter what country we are in, or its traditions, let’s all celebrate our war dead this weekend and every weekend.

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