Memorial Day (May 31): Top 10 Activities to Honor, Travel Advice
|There are lots of great ways to celebrate Memorial Day. Photo Red Ted Art|
There are lots of great ways to celebrate Memorial Day, even now when we're still trying to keep our distance from people not in our households. These 10 Memorial Day activities provide a way to celebrate without losing the true message of the day.
1.Visit a local veterans cemetery
Some of the graves in a veteran cemetery are well maintained and decorated by families. Bring flowers and lay them by a grave that doesn’t have any.
From everyone here at The Old Farmer’s Almanac, we would like say thank you to those men and women who paid the ultimate price. We will always remember the sacrifices of our nation’s heroes. We are deeply grateful.
In remembering the fallen, we also honor their loved ones: spouses, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends. There really aren’t proper words, but we do live in gratitude each and every day for the precious gift that they have given to us.
2.Have a moment of silence
It’s simple, yet powerful. Traditionally, the National Moment of Remembrance takes place on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time. Taking a moment is a simple way to acknowledge the sacrifices of service members on this day. And this year, when the United States and the world have lost so many people, it will be a pretty poignant moment.
3.Support service members
Yes, technically Memorial Day and Veterans Day differ in that Veterans Day honors service members who are still living. But advocating for living veterans is a great way to honor the memory of the deceased ones. You can write thank you letters to veterans or put together care packages with Operation Gratitude. You can also sign petitions like Jon Stewart and John Feal’s to encourage Congress to aid veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits. (This one might be a little over kids’ heads, but it’s a good way to take action).
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4.Make a donation
It’s been a year of financial hardship for so many, but if you’re able, contribute to one of many organizations accepting donations to help veterans transitioning back to civilian life. Take a look at this list and see which feels the most meaningful to you. For a more tangible gift, you can donate to Memorial Day Flowers, a Memorial Day–specific organization where just $5 can provide five red roses for the headstones of soldiers. They also have a Tribute Box Program that sends a box of flowers directly to your home or office—you can select the price and number of flowers.
5.Call a loved one
Okay, this is really a good activity for any day, especially now. But in the U.S., we’ve been in quarantine for over a year, and it’s nice to catch up with loved ones not just on “big-time” holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter. Plus, since it’s a day off work for many, it could provide a good chance to schedule a pre-arranged family or friends chat.
6.Wear Memorial Day poppies
People wear poppies to honor America’s war dead in a Memorial Day tradition that dates back to the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written in 1915 by John McCrae. Inspired by the poem’s image of red poppies scattered through cross-shaped grave markers, American Moina Michael and France’s Anna E. Guerin started selling artificial poppies as a fundraiser for children affected by the war. Now, many Americans pin a poppy on their shirt as a sign of respect.
Stay home and deck out your living space with red, white, and blue decorations. Even if no one is coming over for a party to see them, hanging up the decoration is half the fun! This is an especially great Memorial Day activity for kids: If you’ve got a crafty little one, you can make your own decorations. For a traditional choice, make your own Memorial Day poppy, or buy one. Or check out these great red, white, and blue Memorial Day decorations.
With an outdoor party, there's no need to go overboard with decorations: an easy way to add charm to your outdoor space is by putting up string lights. Hang them from gutters or fences or wrap them around trees and deck railings. You can use larger string lights with vintage-inspired bulbs or put out classic Christmas lights with white cords. Keep them on throughout your daytime party or set them on a timer to turn on around dusk.
Alternatively, put up American flags of any size or make simple banners out of triangular star-spangled paper and string. If you have them, put out Americana touches like red wagons, bandanas, wicker baskets or vintage lanterns. Place miniature American flags in bud vases for charming, simple centerpieces.
Convey the patriotic theme by setting out disposable plates, napkins and flatware in red and blue. Cover tables with vinyl tablecloths that are both festive and easy to wipe clean.
Provide seating to help guests space themselves out in the form of red, white and blue picnic blankets, outdoor cushions or camping chairs. If your celebration extends after dark, use battery-operated candles for safe flameless illumination and distribute glow sticks to kids.
Here are some ideas for simple Memorial Day Crafts:
Decorate popsicle sticks or paint stir sticks and apply star stickers to create a wooden American flag. Attach string or ribbon to transform it into hanging art.
Craft a fluttering DIY kite out of blue paper bags, red and white crepe streamers and string.
For older kids, string seed beads onto safety pins in a pattern to form an American flag pin.
Paint a fireworks show by cutting a 2-inch fringe into one end of a paper towel tube, then dipping the end in paint. Press the painted tube onto paper to create a spray of fireworks.
Decorate a candle jar with stars-and-stripes-themed sequins and buttons.
8.Hang your flag at half staff
Federal guidelines say the flag should be displayed at half-staff only until noon, then go up to full-staff until sundown.
During the Civil War, a U.S. general thought the bugle call signaling bedtime could use a more melodious tune, so he wrote the notes for “Taps” in 1862. Another officer later used the bugle song for a funeral, fearing the traditional firing of rifles might sound like an attack. Now, “Taps” is a traditional part of Memorial Day celebrations.
Travel this Memorial Day will look a lot different than it did a year ago, according to a recent forecast by the American Automobile Association.
Fourteen months into the coronavirus pandemic, people are yearning to travel, especially now that more than 119 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the deadly virus and have more flexibility on wearing masks.
That desire will likely manifest in a surge of travelers this Memorial Day weekend, AAA predicts, adding that between May 27-31, more than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home.
The number represents a massive, 60 percent increase from last year when 23 million people traveled over the holiday, the lowest on record since AAA started recording in 2000.
Temperatures are predicted to be above-normal for about two-thirds of the country, especially in the South and the East.
“While typically the hottest weather can be expected in late July or early August, this year’s summer heat could peak in late August, into early September. So be sure to plan ahead and get your air conditioners, box fans and cool summer clothing tuned-up and ready,” the Almanac stated.
Whatever your plans, the Farmers’ Almanac is warning people to be prepared for bouts of severe weather this summer and to plan accordingly.
If you’re looking to get outdoors this weekend, AAA suggests the worst time to travel is late afternoons of both Thursday and Friday (4:45-6:00 PM). Commuters and vacationers will be getting a head start on the three-day holiday weekend.
In metropolitan areas such as New York, Boston, Atlanta, and the nation’s capital, expect congestion to be two to three times greater than usual at peak times during the weekend.
Overall, the best time to travel will be just after the morning commute or after the evening commute, when most people will either be at work or already settled at their destination. So, plan accordingly!
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5 things Don’t and Do on Memorial Day
1. DON’T WISH ANYONE A “HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY”
This is not Christmas – Memorial Day was not founded in joy with the promise of brining glee each year. It was established as a way for the country to set aside time to honor the troops who had given their lives in service to America.
In 1868, Gen. John Logan declared the day 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.”
Despite what the day has transitioned to in American culture, it was established to honor and remember America’s fallen.
2. DON’T THANK THE CURRENT TROOPS
At least, don’t thank them just because it’s Memorial Day. They deserve respect and gratitude every day of the year, but this day is set aside specifically for America’s fallen warriors from every war.
America’s veterans are honored during November on Veteran’s Day, when we aim to remember and appreciate the sacrifices of all veterans. But, Memorial Day allows the country to focus on those servicemembers who are no longer with us – an important distinction.
3. DON’T DISREGARD ITS IMPORTANCE
Though discounts abound for nearly everything from cars to furniture to pool supplies, that’s not what the holiday is about. When we focus only on the backyard barbecues or discounts on refrigerators, we allow the true meaning to become lost. Particularly when the country has perpetually been at war for the last 16 years, this isn’t something we can allow to happen.
Grill some amazing steaks, and find the perfect mattress on sale, just don’t forget to raise a glass in honor of those servicemen and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
4. DON’T FORGET IT EXISTS
Even worse than allowing the day to become synonymous with deep discounts and potato salad, is letting it slip from the public’s mind completely. When it becomes simply a highly-anticipated extra morning of sleeping in, instead of the day of reflection and appreciation it was meant to be, we disrespect our fallen troops.
5. DON’T LET POLITICS KEEP YOU FROM RENDERING RESPECT
Even if you don’t agree with the idea of war, or the reasons America goes to war, or the policies of a particular president who was the Commander in Chief during a specific war, it doesn’t matter. People have defended the people and interests of America for over 200 years, and your right to disagree with the reasons for war should be separate from your opinion of the troops themselves.
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