Today is Memorial Day, the one day a year when we honor the brave folks who shoot people on our behalf. I totally respect our men and women in uniform. It's not easy to fight enemies, do push-ups, and wear only earth tones. If you drive down any suburban street, you'll be greeted by hundreds of Walmart purchased flags. We should be grateful for their service. If the Greatest Generation hadn't killed a bunch of Nazis, we'd all be listening to Kraftwerk and eating bratwurst right now. But what about the holiday itself? Here are some fun facts about Memorial Day.
It Was Started By The Confederacy
The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history, claiming the lives of 600,000 soldiers and leading to countless Ken Burns documentaries. The South were sore losers and spent decades whining about their loss. In 1866, three years after the end of the war, a group of women in Columbus, Mississippi brought flowers to the graves of the dead Reb's. It caught on and soon people all over the South began remembering their dead in late May. Several former Confederate states still celebrate the rebel dead on weekends in April. This is because Southerners don't let things go, (they are still depressed about the death of Ronnie Van Zant from Lynyrd Skynyrd).
In 1868, the Northern states decided to emulate their former foes and remember their dead soldiers in May. In 1864, the Union seized Robert E. Lee's property in Virginia and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery. Irony! So many people had lost loved ones during the war that the nation needed a day to heal and eat hot dogs. Garfield, (the president not the obese cat), attended the first Decoration Day in Arlington. It was called Decoration Day until WWI when they changed it to Memorial Day. Decoration Day sounds like a day when goats are sacrificed to Martha Stewart.
It's About Selling Flowers
The reason Memorial Day is in May has to do with flowers. We all know that the secret power behind the throne is the floral industry, (the Florinatti). Around this time of year roses and other persnickety flowers bloom. Besides Mother's Day and Valentine's Day it is the most lucrative day on the florist's calendar. In 1868, Decoration Day was celebrated on May 4th but by the time WWI rolled around the Florinatti had lobbied congress to make it the last Monday in May. This was in order to capitalize on when flowers are in maximum bloom. Damn you Florinatti!
Fire Up That Grill
Is there anything more manly than grilling meat over fire? BBQ's are quintessentially American, combining the conspicuous consumption of food with the violence of burning muscle tissue. Besides Labor Day and the Fourth of July, Memorial Day is the most popular grilling day. I even see my fellow New Yorkers putting hibachis on their fire escapes to cook hot dogs. You smell that hot tube of mystery meat? It smells like freedom.
The Start Of Summer
Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial start of summer. Summer actually begins at the summer solstice, which is that day in June your hippie cousin got arrested for dancing naked in the park. Culturally, we have our summer bookended by Memorial Day and Labor Day with July 4th in the middle. In America we have what's called a "civil religion" which is our non-denominational celebration of what's important to us. Most of these holidays center around eating ridiculous amounts of food and big sales at the mall. Some people argue that this demonstrates how gluttonous and consumerist our country is. Don't hate the playa, y'all.
Article By Jack Tomas