Memorial Day, the day we remember the fallen military soldiers who served in the United States Armed Forces.
For most the significance of Memorial Day is the official beginning of summer. For students attending nine month schools they are closer to a three month break from classes and teachers, families plan for the big summer vacation, kids prepare for summer camp or off to visit a relative for the next few months. This was the time in my life the stress as a working mother set in, what will I do with the kids while I’m still working through the summer?
Once known as Decoration Day by a group of Southern ladies and schoolchildren to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers after the American Civil War. First reference as Memorial Day wasn’t until 1882; it became more common after World War II making the day and the name official on June 28, 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Bill making the last Monday in May the official three day federal holiday.
The very first Memorial Day happened on May 26, 1783 as A Great Jubilee Day in North Stratford Connecticut (now Trumbull). The celebration was designated to gather at the meeting house at one o’clock for prayers and singing led by Reverend James Beebe. The North Stratford Militia performed military maneuvers and cannons were discharged as a significance of the end of the American Revolution.
But… the American Revolution didn’t officially end until September 3, 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. How could they have a jubilee in May? I know it got me too. You have to realize the Treaty of Paris was originated as a provisional treaty on November 20, 1782. It took a little time for the news to reach all those in battle in the United States. The skirmishes continued through the winter and summer until the official signing on September 3, 1783.
The overall celebration continues as the original agenda for the day; gathering of family and friends for feasting, celebrating, remembering, services, prayers and a parade. A jubilee celebration for America and rejoice in the pride of the Red, White, and Blue and all who battled in War.
Happy Memorial Day!
Teresa L. Watts
author of remarkable women in US History.