Memorial Day

Blog May 30, 2016


Memorial Day

How are you spending your Memorial Day this year?  I will be in Arroyo Grande, Ca. (central coast) at their 33rd Annual Strawberry Festival working Terra Verde Foods’ booth.  Come see me.  I would enjoy spending time with you.   Some of you will be with family and friends at the beach, at a golf tournament, watching the Indianapolis 500 on TV or having a barbecue.  But why is Memorial Day a national holiday?

I remember, when I was little, getting up early to go to the cemetery, cleaning the family markers or tombstones, trimming the rose bushes that stood by the graveside and placing wreaths and fresh flowers to show that we still remembered our loved ones.  Next to our Sandlin’s family plots were many white headstones placed evenly in many rows.  Each of the headstones had a small United States of America flag placed in front of it.  That was the first time my Dad explained the meaning of Memorial Day to me.  We stayed for the services which included the bugle and 21 gun salute.

In early rural America the custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves was an ancient tradition usually preformed in late summer.  Family gatherings, picnics and family reunion usually occurred in conjunction to the caring of the family gravesides. The American Civil War, 1861 to 1865, changed that.  It claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history.  Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to the countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers. The name first given to this day was Decoration Day.  It was initiated to honor the soldiers for the Union and Confederate armies who died during the American Civil War. Each were still torn by the grief of their war torn countryside, families and beliefs.  America needed to come together with a ceremony to honor both the Union and Confederate military dead.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan gave an order: “The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.  In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”  Go to for the complete order. This date was selected because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself in another major conflict, now Memorial Day honors American military personnel who died in all wars. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

There are now symbols that represent Memorial Day.  The red field poppy that is worn by many people on Memorial Day is one symbol of remembrance.  The Memorial Day United States flag ceremony is another.  The U.S. flag is quickly raised to the tops of flagpoles then slowly lowered to half-mast, and then raised again to full height at noon. The symbolic meaning of each step in the flag ceremony is: The time at half-mast is meant to honor the million-plus fallen U.S. soldiers who have died for their country over the years. Re-raising the flag is meant to symbolize the resolve of the living to carry on the fight for freedom so that the nation’s heroes will not have died in vain.

memorial_day red poppies

Memorial Day traditions have many people visiting their hometown cemeteries, particularly military cemeteries, to decorate the graves. Small American flags, flowers, and wreathes are commonly placed by the tombstones. You have seen red poppy’s worn on Memorial Day.  This tradition grew from the famous poem by John McCrae, a Canadian soldier.  Seeing red poppies growing over the graves of World War I soldiers around his artillery position in Belgium inspired him to write In Flanders Fields, May 1915:

The red field poppy symbol was an idea of an American woman, Miss Moina Michael.  The red field poppy (Papaver rhpeas) was the first plant to grow in the war-torn battlefields.  The seeds of the poppy only germinate after the ground is disturbed.  The battle fields of the brutal fighting during World War 1 created the ideal situation for the germination of the red field poppy’s, now the symbol of loss of life, of recovery and new life, especially in support of those servicemen who were damaged physically or emotionally. 

Memorial Day is also a celebration of the start of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.  It is a good holiday to remember the past and looking forward to the future.  There are parades, parties, barbecues, sporting events and festivals to go to.  Terra Verde Foods will be spending our Memorial Day Weekend in Arroyo Grande, California at the 33rd Annual Strawberry Festival.  Can you think of a better way to start the summer fun than by celebrating summers favorite fruit at a strawberry festival in Central Coast California?  I can’t!  We will be there May 28th and 29th, 2016.  Our booth is located on Bridge Street, Booth #E-354, Arroyo Grande, Ca.  If you are in the area, come join us and  be sure to taste our foods and see why we are all about…

Good eating,

Sandi Sabel

Terra Verde Foods

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