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

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

VIDEO: Police seek suspect in molotov cocktail attack…

Police released surveillance video on Wednesday in hopes of tracking down a man who threw a molotov cocktail inside a Brooklyn corner store.

Local

City Council budget asks for 1,000 additional NYPD…

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled the City Council's budget priorities on Wednesday, including the extra cops for the NYPD at a cost of $94.3 million.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

Books

A debut novel about fate, love and moving…

Pia Padukone talks about her debut novel, "Where Earth Meets Water."

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

NFL

Giants 2014 regular season schedule

The Giants will play five prime-time games — against the Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Cowboys.

MLB

Jets 2014 regular season schedule

The Jets will play three prime-time games — against the Bears, Patriots and Dolphins — as well as a CBS national game in Week 2 at Green Bay.

NBA

Phil Jackson talked to Steve Kerr, pushes for…

Knicks president Phil Jackson spoke to the media for the first time since firing head coach Mike Woodson on Monday.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."