There is perhaps no better way to celebrate Memorial Day than by looking at this video of Memorial Day in Central park 2103. It pulses with life and joy and surely all those Americans who died to preserve freedom for all, did so to give people the choice and opportunity to live life in just this way.
The idea of having a day which celebrated those who died in battle was first celebrated in New York in a small village called Waterloo in 1866. From then on it was celebrated yearly until in March 1966 first the New York legislature and then the Federal congress both honored Waterloo’s long tradiion as the first formal celebration of the honoring of the nation’s war dead.
However there was another tradition in many states in the Union of what was called Decoration Day when the graves of the war dead were tended in May each year and it is safe to say that while New York claims the right to be the first, Waterloo was in fact part of a nation wide movement to honor those who died for their country including of course in the Civil War.
The nationwide law to make the last Monday in May a national Memorial Day was passed by the Congress in 1967 but was not put into effect until 1971. These days all states observe it not just as a day of rememberance but also the unofficial beginning of summer.
On Memorial Day in NYC, flags fly at half mast until noon and there are parades in Manhattan and all the outer boroughs. See the 2nd video for one of these. Most businesses close for the day and it is a treasured 3 day break in the middle of the year as well as a solemn day of honoring the nation’s dead.