Officially the last Monday in May is called Memorial Day, but sadly, few Americans can say what the day is a memorial to. The holiday has become more of an official beginning of summer celebration than a somber day of recognition.
Memorial Day originated back in the late 1860ís as a day to remember soldiers who died in the Civil War. At first it was called Decoration Day because Americans would decorate the graves of the soldiers.
Some of the states in the South would not celebrate the holiday at first because they did not want to honor soldiers of the North. This changed after World War I when the holiday officially became Memorial Day and the emphasis switched to a remembrance of the soldiers who died in all American wars, not just the Civil War. Over time, people also started using the day to remember their loved ones who died.
In the past ten years, efforts have been made to educate the public about the history of the holiday Ė from patriotic concerts in the public parks to poetry readings and anthem sing-a-longs.
Now that America is in the middle of a war, I canít help but wonder if the holiday will have a little more impact. As we see soldiers dying and hang ribbons on our trees, perhaps we will be a bit more aware of the soldiers from other wars in our nationís past Ė wars that have formed us into the nation we are today.
I know the holiday will mean more to me. In previous years, my daycare kids have made flags and have had miniature parades as I have taught briefly on soldiers who fought in wars for our country.
In addition to these lessons this year, I think we are going to go a bit further and focus on peace. We will draw pictures that show people working together and we will talk about starting the peace process in our own homes and daycares.
At the end of May, as I watch the fireworks, I believe I will have a much greater appreciation of the soldiers who gave their lives to bring me my world today - a world of different races intermingling; a world without a dictatorship.
As I remember the soldiers of the past, I will say another prayer for the American men and women fighting overseas right now. May the war end quickly so they can come home safely.