Memorial Day is to some, the holiday that signals the start of summer. Planters are weeded and flowers are planted. Perennials adorn hanging baskets and plans are made for our three day weekend. Beach umbrellas spring up and sand castles are built. Cookouts, trips out of town for picnics with friends and family are nice, but the day is much more than that.
Memorial Day celebrations are often thought of as flag waving parades and speeches at cemeteries but before that it was called “Decoration Day.” May 30th was set aside to decorate graves of those who had served their country. Over the years the day has evolved from a movement in a small town in New York into a national holiday, then a three day weekend and finally a day where we decorate the graves with flowers and flags for our loved ones who have gone before, whether they were in uniform or not.
We seldom give thought to those new citizens who do not have husbands, fathers or brothers that served our country. What do they do? Do they appreciate our flag waving and speeches about wars on foreign soil? If it was their homeland that the war was on how do they feel? I’ve thought about this since I was born in an area WWII was fought in (Hawaii), I was raised in another area that saw tremendous loss of American lifes (Guam) and my son married a beautiful person who is of Asian descent. Her family is just as proud of their heritage as we are of ours. They are also proud of being Americans, even though their own countrymen sent them into the hot desert to live during the conflict.
They remember their ancestors on several occasions during the year, O-ban being one and Memorial Day another. The pictures below are of a Memorial Day ceremony in the 1950’s. Prayers were offered at each grave by a member of the Budhist clergy as some knelt in prayer and others bowed their heads.
The women decorate the graves of the members of their community in the Asian section of Olivewood Cemetery. This beautiful cemetery was once segregated with the Asians and Mexican Americans buried at the bottom next to the road and railroad tracks. Families gather as a member of the Budhist Clergy joins several men kneeling in prayer at each headstone.Gathering together as a community to honor our ancestors and families is a tradition we all share, each culture in a different way. The important thing is we remember our ancestors and the contribution they made so we can live the life we have today.
Enjoy your Memorial Day, but take time to remember and honor those that have gone before us, whether it be in a time of war or as a special person in your life.
Happy Memorial Day!