On May 5, 1866, residents of Waterloo, New York held a ceremony to honor local fallen Civil War soldiers. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson and Congress declared that ceremony the birthplace of Memorial Day. It wasn’t until an act of Congress in 1971 that Memorial Day, which commemorates the men and women who died while in military service, was made a national holiday. Held on the final Monday in May each year, Memorial Day remains a day of honor and remembrance. Though this long weekend is the unofficial start of summer, on May 27, consider celebrating with a little tradition.
1. Visit a Massachusetts Veterans’ Cemetery and leave poppies on a grave site.
- While any flowers would be a lovely gesture, poppies have become synonymous with Memorial Day following a World War I poem written by Colonel John McCrae entitled In Flanders Fields. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs tells the story of the “Flower of Remembrance”.
- This memorial honors Massachusetts servicemen and women who gave their lives in the Vietnam War and all soldiers from the Commonwealth who served from 1955-1975. Learn more about this four-acre park at MassVVM.org.
- Castle Island is the oldest continuously fortified site in North America. The first fort on Castle Island was built in 1634 for the coastal defense of Boston. Fort Independence, a pentagonal five-bastioned fort built between 1834 and 1851, is Castle Island's eighth fort and was built with granite from quarries in Rockport. Free one-hour tours of this National Historic Landmark are sponsored by the Castle Island Association in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and are held May 25-27 from noon to 3:30pm.
4. Check out the Veterans History Project online.
- The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center is primarily an oral history program that collects and preserves first-hand interviews with America's wartime veterans. You can listen, watch and read first-hand accounts of life in wartime from World War I to today.
5. Fly the flag
- Did you know that traditional guidelines call for the flag to be displayed in public areas only from sunrise to sunset? (However, it may fly at any time as long as it’s illuminated.) Additional guidelines based on the Federal Flag Code for proper display of the American flag can be found here.
MassDOT encourages travelers to plan ahead and travel safely during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Read more about safe holiday weekend travel on the MassDOT Transportation blog.
However you plan to celebrate Memorial Day, consider observing the National Moment of Remembrance, with one minute of silence at 3:00 p.m. on May 27, 2013, and check out these additional ideas from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.