The last Monday in May is a patriotic holiday, and you may have your younger family members ask, "Why do we celebrate Memorial Day?" Along with the solemn history of the day, this long weekend is also a time to bond with families. Because the holiday marks the beginning of the summer, plan some outdoor cooking, games, and a little relaxation with these excellent Memorial Day party ideas.
Why We Celebrate
Memorial Day was originally called "Decoration Day," first celebrated on May 30, 1868, as an attempt to heal the bitterness between the North and South following the Civil War. The event honored the dead of both the Union and Confederate armies, and The Grand Army held a celebration at Arlington National Cemetery. Other communities held their own ceremonies across the country.
The term Memorial Day was first used in 1882, but didn't become widespread until after World War II. With the US involved in other conflicts early in the 20th century, the day became an opportunity to remember the country's fallen military personnel. Decoration Day officially became Memorial Day in 1967, with observance switching from May 30 to the last Monday in May in 1971.
Below are four activities you can use to help your family understand the importance of Memorial Day and why we observe it.
Create an Ancestry Scrapbook
Making a scrapbook to remember your family's ancestors is a project that helps answer the question, "Why do we celebrate Memorial Day?" Talk to your kids about the important people in your family history, in particular those who served their country. Work with your kids to recreate the stories of your family, and place these stories in a ring binder. Including pictures is a great way for kids to feel a connection with relatives, especially if there are family resemblances to point out. Bring out this book every year as part of your Memorial Day celebration. It's a project that never ends; you can add new pages each year as you and the kids discover more about your ancestors.
Add a Patriotic Bandanna to Your Memorial Day Wardrobe
If your family is attending a service or parade on Memorial Day, it's a nice touch to wear something patriotic. You can help the kids make star-spangled bandannas to show their support. Gather white fabric cut into large squares, and provide fabric paints in red and blue. With a star-shaped sponge, or even a cookie cutter, show them how to dip the star into the paint and print designs onto the bandanna fabric. When the paint dries, finish it off with some custom flash using a fabric glitter pen.
Poppies Are Symbolic Flowers
Memorial Day is sometimes known as Poppy Day in recognition of the traditional red flower worn to honor those who died during military service. Many veterans create these flowers so they can be distributed, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) works with the American Legion to dispense them at many civic celebrations. Do the same this Memorial Day by crafting paper poppies with your kids to wear and to give out to friends. There are many paper options to choose from for this activity, including tissue paper, cupcake liners, and coffee filters. Just add a green chenille stem to complete your flower.
Ways to Volunteer Your Services on Memorial Day
Volunteering teaches children to give by putting others before themselves, and there are several ways to help them support our veterans on Memorial Day. If your city has a civic event, check with city hall to see how you can pitch in. Make extra paper poppies with the kids and pass them out to veterans at your local VA hospital. Teach your children about the importance of saying "thank you" to a soldier who served or is currently serving in the military. You can also have your family write thank you notes to servicemen and women; kids can make it an art project by drawing pictures on construction paper, folding them, and writing a message inside. The "AMillion Thanks" organization explains how to get these letters to their destination.
These are just four of the numerous Memorial Day celebration ideas kids can use to learn about their country. Does your family have other ways to celebrate? Share your ideas with me below.
Until next time -- Happy Parenting,
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com, public domain