Weekend Best Bets: Memorial Day Edition

As usual there are a ton of things to do this holiday weekend.

And while we wish you a relaxing three day weekend, we at YourDelrayBoca also urge you to remember the meaning behind Memorial Day.

We hope you find time this weekend to honor and pray for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.
We bring you a Memorial Day primer and urge you to visit Veterans Memorials in Delray and Boca this weekend.

Memorial Day is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May. The holiday was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the Civil War  to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who perished.

By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

The first widely publicized observance of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War was said to be in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners had been held at the Charleston Race Course; at least 257 Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves.

Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, which was covered by the national press. The freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Nearly 10,000 people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the war dead. Involved were about 3,000 school children newly enrolled in freedmen’s schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers, and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field. Years later, the celebration would come to be called the “First Decoration Day” in the North.

Yale History Professor David Blight described the day: “This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”

But some dispute whether Charleston was indeed the birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1966, President Johnson issued a decree naming Waterloo, N.Y. as the birthplace. It was said that a local pharmacist in Waterloo came up with the idea of a holiday remembering those who died in service to their country.

Regardless of the origin, please take a moment this weekend to talk to your children and visit a local cemetery.

We are taking Monday off. See you back here next Wednesday! Be safe.