Memorial Day: A movable holiday

Ask a hundred people walking down the street which holiday we are celebrating this weekend, and the vast number will get it right: Memorial Day.

Ask them what it is for, and I suspect you’ll get a lot of “it’s the start of summer” answers. Then ask for the traditional date of the holiday, and unless you are talking to an old-timer, my guess is few will know. Which is strange, because the holiday falls on that date this year.

Memorial Day grew out of the Civil War, and was celebrated for the first time in 1868, by people placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. The designated date was May 30. The celebration stayed on that date for a long time. Of course, I should not call it a celebration. The whole purpose is to mourn those who have fallen in the service of our nation. And yes, there was some discussion over precisely what that phrase meant between northern and southern folks.

Still, May 30 was the date until the early 1970s, when in the anti-war climate after Vietnam, Congress moved it to the last Monday in May. Several other holidays were moved to Mondays by the same legislation which was designed to give federal workers more three-day weekends.

Pretty much ever since then, some people have tried to move Memorial Day back to the 30th. Mostly these campaigns have been lead by veterans who feel as if the loss of American lives among our troops should be marked by solemn remembrance — not so much by trips to the beach, softball games and pirate movies.

I suspect the holiday could not be moved with tongs and dynamite at this point, but I must admit I tend to favor the view of those old troops. Maybe it’s because I came from a military family, but I think when someone agrees to get shot at for you, the quid pro quo ought to be a lifetime of gratitude. And when one of those folks gets killed, it is not too much to ask a nation to stop for a few hours each year to remember them.

In all fairness, as more than one writer has observed, their sacrifice is the only reason we are free to have a day off anyway.

–CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Please send 300-word submissions to letters@metro.us.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Local

Tsarnaev defense lawyers in court Wednesday, seek family…

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are due in court Wednesday to ask a judge to order prosecutors to hand over more information on the defendant's family.

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Local

Bomb squad detonates backpacks left at Marathon finish…

The Boston Marathon finish line has been evacuated and the Copley Square T station has been closed as police investigate a suspicious package, WBZ is reporting.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

Television

'Orphan Black' is back with 'crazy clone shenanigans'

“Orphan Black” is the little show that could. It had a few things working against it: a sci-fi premise, attracting an audience who had never…

The Word

Kelly Osbourne and Paris Hilton fight over a…

Paris Hilton and Kelly Osbourne, both members of famous families and natives of the reality boom of the early aughts, should be great friends. And yet.

MLB

MLB video highlights: White Sox beat Red Sox…

Red Sox fall on walk-off error to White Sox

NBA

NBA Draft Lottery day is May 20: Celtics…

NBA Draft Lottery day is Tuesday, May 20: Celtics percentage odds for a top overall pick

MLB

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be…

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be dumped just yet

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready…

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready to erupt once again in playoffs

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.

Tech

Google Glass finally goes on sale for regular…

The Google Glass finally went on sale for regular people. It only costs $1,500.