Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May, honours the men and women who died while serving in the American military.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.
In 2011, Memorial Day is observed on Monday, May 30th.
Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday celebrated the last Monday of May. And as the United States takes a day off in observance, news media and bloggers are taking the time to reflect.
Yahoo’s The Upshot explains the day’s history.
“The holiday was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, when 5,000 people helped decorate the gravesites of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery. ...After World War I, the observances were widened to honor the fallen from all American wars--and in 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday.”
But of course, Memorial Day isn’t just for the past -- CBS acknowledges America’s servicemen and women of today.
REPORTER: “After a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 6,000 American troops have been killed in action. …For those who do not come home safely, this holiday weekend is for them. At Fort Bragg, a tribute to 30 fallen soldiers.”
SPEAKER: “These were men who heard and responded to a different voice.”
And along with historical reflection, comes cultural analysis.
A writer for The Huffington Post says -- the holiday seems to...
“...have lost some of its meaning with many Americans, who view it simply as the beginning of summer! Or, it is viewed as an opportunity to get away on a three-day excursion or to find good shopping sales, which in my humble opinion, is far worse.”
And a blogger for The Weekly Standard agrees, adding -- a fast-paced culture sometimes makes it difficult for people to see the meaning of the day off.
“Americans can enjoy our blessings of liberty, equal rights, enterprise, and religious freedom without consciously appreciating the deeds and stories of those who have made these blessings possible and who have handed them down to us. It goes without saying how collective memory is imperiled today, in an age defined by instant messaging and other enthusiasms for the ephemeral.”
Finally, in an interview with Fox News, a former U.S. Marine says -- it doesn’t matter how you spend Memorial Day, as long as you recognize its significance.
RYE BARCOTT, FORMER MARINE: “I grew up in a family that’s been affected by war. My father’s a Vietnam war veteran and it was always a very solemn day for us, so it was a different type of experience. And I don’t think it’s wrong to celebrate, but the celebration itself would be so much more meaningful if you recognize why we have the opportunity to do it.”