Keeler Notes: Memorial Day

Your silent tents of green

We deck with fragrant flowers

Yours has the suffering been,

The memory shall be ours.

The final stanza of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Decoration Day” reflects the national sentiment of Memorial Day. Celebrated on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day celebrates the remembrance of those who died while serving in the armed forces.

The holiday originated as Decoration Day, a day when the graves of fallen soldiers were decorated with flowers. While the practice of decorating graves is an ancient one, the memorialization of soldiers took on a cultural significance after the Civil War due to the staggering number, more than 600,000, of soldiers who died.

It is unknown when or where the first Memorial Day-type observances occurred; several towns have claimed the distinction. Waterloo, N.Y., which held celebrations beginning in 1866, was declared the official birthplace of the holiday, because it hosted an annual, community-wide event. The first “official” nationwide Decoration Day was held on May 30, 1868, which was designated for “the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating, the graves of [soldiers] who died during the late rebellion.”

Over the years, the holiday evolved to include military personnel of all wars. This Memorial Day, KTM&HC will be marching in Ridgefield’s Memorial Day parade, commemorating the service men and women who gave their lives for our country. This year, in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I, we will be paying special honor to those who fought and died during this conflict.