Sunday, May 29, 2016

“Commemorate” Memorial Day, Do Not “Celebrate” It

I have read and heard several expressions of “celebrating” Memorial Day this year, but as the purpose of the holiday is to remember American servicemen who died in war, it is a day to mourn, not to celebrate.  The only positive emotion the holiday should evoke is gratitude. 

A more accurate word choice is commemorating the holiday. 

I have in the past observed people wishing others to enjoy Memorial Day as a “happy holiday” and other references to it as day of mirth, which suggested that people have lost the meaning of this solemn day.  See my post from May of 2009, Memorial Day Is Not Meant to Be a Happy Holiday,  References to the “celebration” of Memorial Day confirm this loss, although the distinction between celebration and commemoration has increasingly been lost more generally, which, in turn, is reflected in how people act in such circumstances.

            The celebration of this federal and state holiday always on a Monday in late Spring necessarily makes it a three-day weekend and encourages the popular perception of it as the “unofficial” start of Summer and thus the observation of it with general merriment.  Perhaps it has become time to consider moving Memorial Day to an earlier, fixed date on the calendar that would encourage more appropriate solemnity and substituting in between that date and Independence Day another holiday, such as Flag Day, to celebrate as a more festive late Spring holiday.    

            Let us pause this holiday to remember our war dead and be grateful for the liberty we enjoy as a result of their sacrifice.

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