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Memorial Day 2010 Newsletter

Honoring the Fallen: Memorial Day

Red poppies are a symbol of consolation. Since World War I, poppies have been a symbol of remembrance at Memorial Day. The red poppy was used to symbolize the blood of those who died in service to their countries.

Most Americans believe the idea started in 1918 when American Moina Michael read the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian John McCrae in 1915 during World War I. She began wearing poppies and selling them to others, using the proceeds to help veterans.  Inspired by the poem, Moina penned her own tribute:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.


Ms. Michael then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and coworkers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms. Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy Poppy Program" was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing postage stamp with her likeness on it. Today, donations to veterans’ groups are often marked with a token paper red poppy.

You can find many different early stories about the origins of Memorial Day itself, with just as many cities and towns laying claim to being the birth place of Memorial Day.   There is evidence that women's groups in the South decorated graves before the end of the civil war. One of the earliest hymns, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet. According to Duke University's archive of Historic American Sheet Music, the song was dedicated to "the ladies of the South who are decorating the graves of the Confederate dead."  The naming of Waterloo N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day (by President Lyndon Johnson) occurred in May 1966.  The official recorded proclamation of Memorial Day itself was May 5 1868 by General John Logan, who was then the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This proclamation was first observed on May 30 of that year, when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  Obviously, honoring our war dead is a very old tradition, with towns across the U.S. showing respect and honor in organized, and spontaneous events. There are also additional separate days for honoring the Confederate war dead in several southern states.

The larger parades and gatherings of yesteryear, traditional observance of Memorial Day, has diminished over the years, and some Americans have forgotten these meanings and traditions. It has become a day to remember all the dead, not just those fallen in service to our country.  To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed on Dec. 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps" 

The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day." If you are interested in supporting an effort to restore the traditional May 30th Day of Observance, click here.

We at Samara Botane thank you for your continued business and wish you and your family a happy and safe holiday this Memorial Day.



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