Did you know? Memorial Day started out as “Decoration Day” during the aftermath of the American Civil War, as a way to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died in shockingly short order, during the second half of the 19th century, would not be forgotten. The origin of this practice is hard to pin down, but it was originally celebrated in northern states on May 30th, which specifically did not coincide with any battle, so that all soldiers could be honored equally. For reasons of their own, the South celebrated their own Decoration Day on a date different from the North.
By World War One though, Decoration Day had become Memorial Day, and was celebrated all over the country on the last Monday in May. It was also at this time that Memorial Day grew to encompass the fallen soldiers of all wars, not just the Civil War. And in a fit of passion, an army doctor wrote “Flanders Fields” after presiding over the funeral of a fallen soldier, and the vivid imagery of the poppy flower as nature’s memorial to the dead became a worldwide emblem of Memorial Day, and was then adopted for Veteran’s Day as well.
Today, Memorial Day is a celebration of fallen soldiers certainly, but it is also a day to celebrate America’s freedom, and to help veterans through the sale of poppy flowers, often provided by vets themselves in all number of places in every city and town in the US. And the poppy has certainly become the emblem of Memorial Day, emblazoned on everything from table cloths to bright red poppy lapel pins. Many organizations make special edition poppy versions of their products, with proceeds going towards veterans affairs organizations.
I’m personally a big fan of Memorial Day, not only because it’s a wonderful thing to remember the men and women in this country who gave literally everything they had to preserve the freedoms we enjoy every day, but also because it falls right next to, and sometimes on, my birthday. So poppies for me are both memorial and celebratory (and the paid vacation day isn’t a bad birthday gift!). And if you can’t find someone selling poppies around this Memorial Day, be sure to to check us out: our poppy lapel pins are a great tribute.