It’s almost Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor those who have died wearing the uniform of our nation in war. This observance has its origins in Waterloo, NY in 1865, when a village druggist first suggested it to honor the North’s Civil War dead. It took a while before “Decoration Day” was officially recognized, and it eventually became an annual event to honor all war dead that was observed on May 30.
Then, on June 28, 1968, the United States Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved four holidays—Washington's Birthday (which evolved into Presidents' Day), Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day—from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend.
Out of a sense of convenience we have devalued those four holidays. How important can they be if it doesn’t matter when we celebrate them? Consequently, although we set aside a special day for Columbus and Martin Luther King, Jr.—and I’m not questioning honoring either Chris or Rev. King—we no longer even have a day for the nation’s first president, or any president, for that matter; we’ve lumped all 43 of them together. On a Monday. (Three-day weekend, you know.)
The least we can do is to set aside a day for important observances that has some relevance to the person or event we are honoring. Honor George Washington on his birthday. Set a date to honor our war dead, and stick with it. Convenience is a great thing so long as it doesn’t control our lives.
Technorati Tags: Memorial Day, Hoildays, Culture, American Life