Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Officially designated a national holiday in 1968 to be effective as a three-day weekend in 1971, it has become the traditional kickoff to summer. Graduations. Pool openings. Picnics. Car Races. This weekend runs the gamut of what's going on in our modern lives.
Today, though, instead of celebrating the present, I thought I'd hop into the way-back machine and find out what this holiday truly is about.
First of all, as many of you probably already knew, but I didn't, Memorial Day originally was known as Decoration Day and it actually began almost immediately after the Civil War.
You see, during the war, the Southern women had begun to decorate the graves of their war dead.
It seems that May was the month that this happened, but depending on the locale, the dates ranged throughout the month. Although a precursor to Decoration Day, this wasn't the actual birth of the holiday.
Most sources say that Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on May 30, 1868. But here's where it gets really interesting.
According to historian David W. Blight, the true birth of Memorial Day occurred when the freed slaves of Charleston, S.C., commemorated Union soldiers, fallen and hurriedly buried at a race track there.
These now free men knew of the deaths of the men who had died to free them and together, with teachers and missionaries, organized what came to be called "The First Decoration Day." At least that's what they called it in the North.
These men cleaned the area, decorated the graves and made an arch reading "Martyrs of the Race Course." At the actual event, nearly 10,000 were in attendance, mostly those very people who had been set free by the deaths of these Union soldiers being remembered.
From the 19th to the 21st century, Memorial Day carries on.
From its nascent beginnings with Southern women caring for the graves of their beloved soldiers, to free men honoring those who died to free them, to all the flags now decorating the graves of the war dead of so many battles in all three of these centuries, Memorial Day carries on.
Back to the present, I will get a little personal and just add that I hope and pray that remembering all of those we have loved and lost in battle will encourage each of us in our own way to decide on peace for today and for the future.
Let there be no more need to remember men and women who have fallen in battle.
Let there be peace on earth.
Questions may be directed to Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit www.journeyintopower.com. Her column is published on the second and fourth Sunday of each month.