Decoration Day

This article has been posted before.  It has been received with a bit of skepticism over the origins of the day.  It is likely that the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War was taken up in many places during and immediately after the war, unknown to one another.  Some of these practices were reported in newspapers of the time, while others were passed down orally and written down later.  These later versions may have been supported by anecdotal evidence that is now hard, if not impossible, to prove.
Where exactly the practice of decorating graves started, and who should claim the origin is not really the point anymore, is it?  A tradition of decorating graves, and the meaning of the “holiday” are now largely lost.  This loss of historic knowledge, along with the loss of so many American soldiers, is the true sadness of the day.

Who will decorate the graves?

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see news reports covering how Americans are hitting the road due to low gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. And the Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

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Decoration Day

When I first put up this article three years ago, I was surprised to receive some backlash over the meaning of the holiday we now know as Memorial Day.  The origins of Decoration Day were told to me as if there was a bit of a conspiracy over the years since the Civil War to change the day’s meaning.  It is likely that the same tradition grew up in many places around the same time. 

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see the PBS Newshour was covering how Americans are hitting the road due to a drop in gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this drop to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. The Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

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IN SEARCH OF PEACE ON EARTH

It does not look like a New Year will bring Peace on Earth, but we can hope.

SERENDIPITY

The Same Auld Lang Syne, by Rich Paschall

Another year has begun and we can see it is indeed the same as days gone by.  The old days are not forgotten as old conflicts rage on and new ones have arisen.  If old acquaintances happen to be forgotten as one year passes into another, old hatred, old disputes, old border wars, old and new religious battles carry on as if they will forever be remembered.  Are these disagreements worth the killing of men, women and children standing on the other side?

In our neighborhood, just as in many around the world we conclude our year wishing “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”  It is on our greeting cards and in our songs.  It appears in Christmas stories and is heard from pulpits and lecterns around the world. The invocations I read to those assembled at noon mass at our church on Christmas Day included a…

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WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR’S EVE?

A little question for New Year’s Eve.

SERENDIPITY

The Jackpot Question, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

By now you are expected to have a good response. So what is it? What are you doing? Certainly your friends have been asking and you must have something interesting to say. Unless you are under 18 or over 80, you do not get a pass on this one. So, what’s it going to be? Party? Dinner and dancing? Will you be outside watching fireworks or in where it is warm? If you are in Florida or Arizona, I guess you could be outside watching fireworks where it is warm.

Since there seems to be so many different things to do, the question might actually be somewhat logical. Restaurants, bars, hotel ballrooms all seem to have some sort of package deal. There are shows and concerts of every type. Whether you are in a big city or a small town, plans for the celebration abound. For some strange reason, everyone…

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Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark!

New Year’s Eve is not the same

In 2011 Dick Clark counted down the old year for the last time.  His Rock and Roll celebrations of the New Year in Times Square, and those that subsequently copied him, are now an American tradition.  That was not all he the rock promoter and host put on his resume.  His contribution to music and television is legendary. The younger crowd may only have known him as that old guy on Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. So, I would like to introduce you to, or remind you of, that guy who helped to popularize Rock and Roll. Following is mostly the same article I wrote two years ago after his passing. The video of Bandstand Boogie at the end has been replaced with one I took at the Chicago Theater and is now on my You Tube ihjtalk music channel:

“Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark
What a place you’ve got here
Swell spot the music’s hot here.”
That’s what Barry Manilow told us when he turned the well-known theme of American Bandstand into Bandstand Boogie. By that point in time, Dick Clark was already an icon of American music. This was not because he made music, but because he played music. And play it he did, from coast to coast, Philadelphia (home of American Bandstand) to LA. He wasn’t serving up Mario Lanza or Ethel Merman (look them up), he was playing rock and roll, and all kinds, too.

He took over Bandstand in 1956 at WFIL in Philadelphia.  In 1957 it was picked up by the ABC Network and became “American Bandstand”. As the times changed and the music changed, so did Bandstand. Dick Clark, however, never seemed to change. As the generations rock and rolled on and on, Dick Clark became America’s oldest teenager. His boyish enthusiasm seemed to defy time and gravity. We loved him for that. It might have meant we could defy time too.

A half a generation of teenagers had danced past the bandstand before I was old enough to find American Bandstand on the American Broadcasting Company. It would be a lie to say that I did not learn what was “in” from bandstand. Each weekend we could see what other teens where listening to, dancing to and commenting on. We saw the styles that were “in” and wanted to look cool like the kids on Bandstand. We knew what records to buy and what dances to learn. Dick Clark always remained the top teenager of all the teenagers, no matter how many years went by.

In 1972 we learned to rock in the New Year while watching Dick Clark stand in the New York cold for the big count down. Generations watched as the annual event grew to a coast to coast phenomenon. By the new millennium it was performers from the freezing cold of Times Square to parties on the opposite coast. Others copied the format, brought in the big name guests, but most of us stayed with Dick Clark. He remained our favorite teen.

Dick Clark eventually entered every arena of show business. He was a game show host, video clips host with Ed McMahon, producer, promoter, creator of American Music Awards and all around entrepreneur. We welcomed him into our homes in every one of his projects. Everyone liked Dick Clark, everyone.

For those of us who grew up watching Dick on all of his programs, we felt a certain satisfaction in his longevity. I think this largely had to do with the fact that he never seemed to age. No matter how many decades rock and rolled by, he did not age. It was as if he was Dorian Gray and had a portrait of himself aging in some attic. By god, if Dick Clark did not have to grow old, maybe we didn’t have to either. We rooted for his ongoing success so we could go on too.

Then, at long last, the unthinkable happened. Dick Clark had a stroke. OMG, if Mr. Dick Clark is getting old, does that mean those of us who watched Bandstand a generation or two ago are getting old too? How can this be! In 2004 we did not rock in the New Year with Dick Clark, but the network brought on one if its old stalwarts, Regis Philbin to host the countdown. Regis? How can they bring in Regis? After all he is as old as …uh…Dick Clark? Yes, that was it. It was a reminder that we were all getting older.

The following year, Dick Clark worked tirelessly to get back to the countdown. They brought in Ryan Seacrest, rather than Regis, since Ryan actually knew rock and roll, to host the show. Dick was there to man the countdown but something was wrong. He grew old. It is like it happened over night and it was the big wake up call for all of us American Bandstand kids. We must be getting old too. It was painful to watch as Dick struggled to get out the words. It was our own pain, however, realizing that the years had been racing by. Instead of seeing the triumph over a massive stroke by an American legend, we saw our own mortality staring back at us. Americas’s oldest teenager was just old and we were so sad to see it.

When there were only three national networks and there were not endless hours of television to be filled up with stuff, Dick Clark popularized the music that teenagers coast to coast were hearing on their top 40 AM radio stations. While not all parents would have liked it, he gave us good entertainment, no shock, no vulgarity, no reality crap, just good entertainment. Generations of American Bandstand, The Dick Clark Show, the $25,000 Pyramid, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, the American Music Awards, endless movie and television shows by Dick Clark Productions stand as tribute.
“We’re goin’ hoppin’ (Hop)
We’re goin’ hoppin’ today
Where things are poppin’ (Pop)
The Philadelphia way
We’re gonna drop in (Drop)
On all the music they play
On the Bandstand (Bandstand)”

Decoration Day

When I first put up this article two years ago, I was surprised to receive some backlash over the meaning of the holiday we now know as Memorial Day.  The origins of Decoration Day were told to me as if there was a bit of a conspiracy over the years since the Civil War to change the day’s meaning.  I am convinced the meaning has changed, but I stand by the well documented historical facts concerning the Day.

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. At least families have gathered together.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days (probably a topic for some New Year’s blog).

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see the PBS Newshour was covering how Americans are hitting the road due to a drop in gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this drop to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. The Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern ladies had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

The Wearing of the Green

Amateur Night II

English: Picture of a beam in the Guinness Sto...

English: Picture of a beam in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Taken by me on 22 May 2007. Text reads, “Everyone’s Irish on March 17th”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Year’s Eve generally brings everyone out to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next.  In truth it is just another day, but we have turned it into a national day of drinking for the vast majority of the over 21 crowd as well as some who are not quite there.  Of course, we are not the only ones.  Much of the so-called “civilized world” is out celebrating.  That makes the perfect opportunity for news crews to get out and record the mayhem.  The problem with all this revelry is it brings out people who do not normally go out and party to excess.  These greenhorns and newbies become a menace to themselves as well as the general public.  With a national average of 140 traffic deaths on New Year’s, this truly is a bad night to take to the roads even if you were not drinking.

Peer pressure certainly has a lot to do with people going out to do little more than drink past the point of intoxication.  Everyone is going to a party or bar, so “What are you doing on New Year’s Eve?” is a popular question.  You feel the need to have a good answer weeks before the actual event.  “I am going to McDrunk’s Bar and Grill.  They are having a live band.  The Intoxicators go on at 10 and play until 2.”  Since there are so many people at the party, it is often referred to by people who frequent the bars as “Amateur Night.”   This is so scary to some people who get out plenty of times during the year, that they elect to stay home rather than run the risk of getting run down by the drinking neophyte.

While St. Patrick’s Day is not the second deadliest night of drunken driving fatalities for the year, it is the second time in chronological order that the learners and nonprofessional drinkers go out to drink.  This time they may pour down some Irish ale, green-colored beer or other refreshment they are not used to having.  Since everyone thinks they are Irish every 17th of March, or whatever day the local bars are celebrating it, everyone seems to thinks it is Amateur Night 2.  For many it also turns into Hangover 2 or “Dear God, I promise never to do that again, I’m begging you just make me well.”  Since God is not making deals with you, the day after your personal Irish Fest is another day to lay around feeling like you should not move or a time for calling off work.  If you do not show up at your job, however, we can only come to one conclusion.

There are other Amateur Nights as well, nicely spaced throughout the year.  Next up for most will be Memorial Day.  For some it is the entire 3 day weekend.  Beware of those that try to cure a Friday Night amateur hour with a follow-up “hair of the dog” cure.  It is not helpful to cure your drinking with more drink.  According to a past Forbes ranking our third attempt at suicide by alcohol only ranks 4th on the list.  The scary thing is the three-day time span that allows freshmen drinkers to hit the bars and maybe a few cars too.

As everyone puts on something green to pretend they are dressing up for the holiday, they should try to keep in mind that the novices are out there too. So take heed.  If you ae a learner at the art of partying, I can pass along some advice that you will no doubt ignore.  It is best to learn that moderation is a good thing.  Designated drivers are a good thing. “Pacing” yourself is a good thing.  Do not be the one who has to call friends the next day to find out where your car is or to explain why you got your face slapped by someone you do not even know.  Perhaps you need to go to a karaoke bar and sing a lot.  You won’t be drinking while your singing and you will find that everyone thinks your off-key melodies sound great after they have been there a while.

If you survive these amateur festivals of alcohol worship all the way to Thanksgiving you will find that you can give thanks the beginners did not get you.  Rejoice in the fact that St. Patrick’s Day turned into a pleasant evening.  Be thankful that your friends and family survived too, but do not get too comfortable.  While taking your wine or beer with your turkey and football do not forget the amateurs.  Caution may be the key word not just when you are wearing a silly green hat.  Thanksgiving, not St Pat’s, is the deadliest holiday time of all the Amateur nights.  Beware the Ides of March too, as well as the days that follow.

Note:  There are a lot of deadly holiday lists on the web.  While they tend to include all the same holidays, the rankings vary from list to list.  The good news is that St. Patrick’s Day does not even make many of the Top 10 deadliest holidays.

Making Resolutions

Most of us made New Year’s resolutions.  Some of us have already broken them.  Perhaps they were meant to be broken sooner than later anyway.  Here are my thoughts on the topic that I put up last year at this time:

 

Breaking Resolutions

English: New Year's Resolutions postcard

English: New Year’s Resolutions postcard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Everyone is expected to make resolutions. As people go around asking one another about them, they create a societal group pressure for each one of us to resolve to do something.  It is a sort of “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours” game. Newspaper and magazine articles will discuss this at the end of one year and into the beginning of the next. Radio and television stations may dispatch crews to the shopping malls and “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style.” Sorry, that was a momentary flashback. Anyway, the question persists each year at this time. “What are your New Year’s resolutions?”

 

When nosey Aunt Bertha tells you her resolution is to go on a diet, and then asks you what your resolution is, you will probably be compelled to say something other than she actually needs the diet. So you trot out some of the better clichés and offer up some ideas. You may wish to say that you are going to go on a diet too, even though you are not the one needing to drop 50 pounds. You can say that you are going to give up smoking. That will work whether you smoke or not. It is particularly effective on people who only know you casually. How do they know you are not out in the garage in 10 degree weather smoking like a Christmas night fireplace? You could resolve not to drink until St Patrick’s Day, but there are the birthday parties, anniversaries, dreadful family events and of course more Bowl games to watch. When the NFL play-off games are finally over, there is the biggest night of sports fueled drinking to contend with, the Super Bowl! It looks like you should leave the drinking resolution alone until Lent, unless you have resolved to enter a 12-step program.

 

New Year’s resolutions are not like those Catholics make at Lent, of course. We actually mean to keep our Lenten resolutions. Lent is a mini-sacrifice we accept and will actually work at. New Year’s resolutions are different since they are mostly just the things we tell people. Of course we should exercise more and stop super-sizing everything we get at fast food restaurants. If you passed 50 years of age it would be interesting to see if you could fit in some of your high school clothes again…OK, skip that, bad visual. You could resolve to take the stairs instead of the elevator. You could even resolve to ride your bike to work or jog or walk briskly. In our part of the country you would have to walk very briskly in order not to freeze your McMuffins off at this time of year. There are a lot of things we could do, but we really are just saying them and have no deep desire to carry them through. In that way they are sort of like campaign promises. Trust me, whatever your duly elected representatives promised to do a few months ago, they have already forgotten and hope you have forgotten them too. Therefore, in the great tradition of American politics, whatever you promise Aunt Bertha you are going to do this year, you may feel free to discard as soon as you leave her dusty, doily filled apartment. In fact, the sooner you run from Aunt Bertha and her resolutions the better off you will be. The less lying you have to do, the better you will feel.

 

If ever there should be some resolutions, however, I think these should be included: Politicians should resolve to stop leaving things to the last-minute. Perhaps they can resolve to stop scaring us with fiscal cliffs and bad tax bills laden with pork. Colleges and Universities could resolve to care more about education than about winning football and basketball games. Bloggers and You Tubers should resolve to stop leaving hoaxes and lies on the internet like the world-wide web was just some giant video game for their amusement. The Chicago Cubs should resolve to win the World Series. Forget that one, they resolve to do that every year. It is more of a pipe dream, really. Reality shows should resolve to actually be real rather than filled with staged confrontations. The city should resolve to pave my back alley. OK, that’s another pipe dream. Friends should resolve to tell friends how important they are to their lives. I am off to a good start on that one, actually.

 

To show that I am going to take this often abused tradition seriously this year, here are a few of my resolutions. I resolve to be more the real me than the me I think I need to be at times (confused?), although sometimes discretion is better. I resolve to worry more about getting things right today and not to worry about the past at all. I should resolve to work harder at learning French and playing the guitar I bought a few years ago, but those are constant resolutions in the back of my mind anyway. Maybe I should just resolve to push them forward a little. I resolve to take this weekly column to its one year anniversary then judge its future from there. It’s not that I do not enjoy the weekly challenge of putting something together, and sometimes more than one column a week, but there are so many things I have resolved to do in life that I already have to live to 103 to get them done. OK, that’s the best one. I will resolve to live to 103 and if my brain still functions, I will then make up a bucket list.

 

Decoration Day

When I first put up this article last year at this time, I was surprised to receive some backlash over the meaning of the holiday we now know as Memorial Day.  The origins of Decoration Day were told to me as if there was a bit of a consipiracy over the years since the Civil War to change the day’s meaning.  There is no doubt that the meaning has changed, but I stand by the well documented historical facts concerning the Day.

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on a Thursday. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. At least families have gathered together.
Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in cities whose names start with the letter D (Detroit, Dallas and Denver). Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changes this year since Dick Clark will not count down the final seconds and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days (probably a topic for some New Year’s blog).
When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see the PBS Newshour was covering how Americans are hitting the road due to a drop in gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this drop to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. The Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.
When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern ladies had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.
The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday, Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”
My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark!

Hey, it’s one year onward…

Last year at this time, media mogul and television personality Dick Clark passed away. His contribution to music and television is legendary. The younger crowd may only have known him as that old guy on Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. So, I would like to introduce you to, or remind you of, that guy who helped to popularize Rock and Roll. Following is the article I wrote last year. The video of Bandstand Boogie at the end has been replaced with one I took at the Chicago Theater and is now on my You Tube ihjtalk music channel:

“Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark
What a place you’ve got here
Swell spot the music’s hot here.”
That’s what Barry Manilow told us when he turned the well-known theme of American Bandstand into Bandstand Boogie. By that point in time, Dick Clark was already an icon of American music. This was not because he made music, but because he played music. And play it he did, from coast to coast, Philadelphia (home of American Bandstand) to LA. He wasn’t serving up Mario Lanza or Ethel Merman (look them up), he was playing rock and roll, and all kinds, too. As the times changed and the music changed, so did Bandstand. Dick Clark, however, never seemed to change. As the generations rock and rolled on and on, Dick Clark became America’s oldest teenager. His boyish enthusiasm seemed to defy time and gravity. We loved him for that. It might have meant we could defy time too.
A half a generation of teenagers had danced past the bandstand before I was old enough to find American Bandstand on the American Broadcasting Company. It would be a lie to say that I did not learn what was “in” from bandstand. Each weekend we could see what other teens where listening to, dancing to and commenting on. We saw the styles that were “in” and wanted to look cool like the kids on Bandstand. We knew what records to buy and what dances to learn. Dick Clark always remained the top teenager of all the teenagers, not matter how many years went by.
In 1972 we learned to rock in the New Year while watching Dick Clark stand in the New York cold for the big count down. Generations watched as the annual event grew to a coast to coast phenomenon. By the new millennium it was performers from the freezing cold of Times Square to parties on the opposite coast. Others copied the format, brought in the big guests, but most of us stayed with Dick Clark. He remained our favorite teen.
Dick Clark eventually entered every arena of show business. He was a game show host, video clips host with Ed McMahon, producer, promoter, creator of American Music Awards and all around entrepreneur. We welcomed him into our homes in every one of his projects. Everyone liked Dick Clark, everyone.
For those of us who grew up watching Dick on all of his programs, we felt a certain satisfaction in his longevity. I think this largely had to do with the fact that he never seemed to age. No matter how many decades rock and rolled by, he did not age. It was as if he was Dorian Gray and had a portrait of himself aging in some attic. By god, if Dick Clark did not have to grow old, maybe we didn’t have to either. We rooted for his ongoing success so we could go on too. Then, at long last, the unthinkable happened. Dick Clark had a stroke. OMG, if Mr. Dick Clark is getting old, does that mean those of us who watched Bandstand a generation or two ago are getting old too? How can this be!
In 2004 we did not rock in the New Year with Dick Clark, but the network brought on one if its old stalwarts, Regis Philbin to host the countdown. Regis? How can they bring in Regis? After all he is as old as …uh…Dick Clark? Yes, that was it. It was a reminder that we were all getting older. The following year, Dick Clark worked tirelessly to get back to the countdown. They brought in Ryan Seacrest, rather than Regis, since Ryan actually knew rock and roll, to host the show. Dick was there to man the countdown but something was wrong. He grew old. It is like it happened over night and it was the big wake up call for all of us American Bandstand kids. We must be getting old too. It was painful to watch as Dick struggled to get out the words. It was our own pain, however, realizing that the years had been racing by. Instead of seeing the triumph over a massive stroke by an American legend, we saw our own mortality staring back at us. Americas’s oldest teenager was just old and we were so sad to see it.

When there were only three national networks and there were not endless hours of television to be filled up with stuff, Dick Clark popularized the music that teenagers coast to coast were hearing on their top 40 AM radio stations. While not all parents would have liked it, he gave us good entertainment, no shock, no vulgarity, no reality crap, just good entertainment. Generations of American Bandstand, The Dick Clark Show, the $25,000 Pyramid, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, the American Music Awards, endless movie and television shows by Dick Clark Productions stand as tribute.
“We’re goin’ hoppin’ (Hop)
We’re goin’ hoppin’ today
Where things are poppin’ (Pop)
The Philadelphia way
We’re gonna drop in (Drop)
On all the music they play
On the Bandstand (Bandstand)”