Memorial Day, More than an excuse to Barbecue

As most people know, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in the service of the United States of America. In the beginning, Memorial Day was actually called Decoration Day. With everyone being affected personally by family and friends lost in the Civil War, the people of the country had the desire to honor those who died in the service of our country. On May 5th, 1868, General John Logan declared “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” . It is said that the date of Decoration Day was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle fought.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 volunteers helped to decorate the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. And so the tradition began.

I was able to go to the cemetery last night and visit the graves of my family- some of which served our country. My Mom’s cousin does these amazing displays at each of our ancestors graves with photos, obituaries, and neat facts about them. It is always neat to be able to see little glimpses of who I am and where I come from. My daughter came home and was talking about all the people she went to visit and some of the things they had done in their lives. It was a great experience for her and I feel like all the “extras” put near the graves made the people even more real to her.

There was a study done at Emory University that analyzed dinner time conversations to see how well families work and how family stories are a critical part of an adolescents emerging identity. Here are two articles written describing how important knowing family history really is:

Knowing Their Family History Helps Kids Cope

“Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world,” the researchers write in the study published in Emory’s online Journal of Family Life.

Teens who knew more stories about their extended family showed “higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement, even when controlling for general level of family functioning.”

“There is something powerful about actually knowing these stories,”

Understanding Family History Helps Children Cope with Life

“Additional research revealed that the more children knew about their family’s history, the higher their self-concept and the stronger their sense of ability to make decisions and achieve desired goals. And these effects were found after taking into account the positive effects associated with general patterns of healthy family communication and interaction.

Knowing stories from family history itself seemed to instill a strong sense of identity, grounding children in the recognition that they belong to something bigger than themselves – something from which they draw meaning, strength and wisdom.”

So take advantage of the time you have today with family. While you are all huddled around the table eating some yummy food, talk about your ancestors, tell stories of them and even your own. Your kids will love it and I bet you will enjoy it yourself!