Since everything is still closed or slowly re-opening this weekend it was basically pointless to put activities that are normally held this weekend since most have been cancelled. So, with that in mind, here is some history of the holiday and what you can do to celebrate it even with most events being put off this year.
- The holiday originated in Waterloo, New York on May 5, 1866. They held a community wide event with businesses closing and residents putting flowers/flags on the graves of fallen soldiers. The date was originally called Decoration Day and was chosen due to it not having been the anniversary of any given battle.
- Decoration Day gradually evolved into Memorial Day and was originally just to commemorate those who lost their lives fighting the Civil War. World War 1 changed the holiday to commemorate those lost during all wars.
- In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, that established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971.
- Since parks are open in Iowa now, take the family and have a cookout or just get out in nature. The bathrooms, shower rooms and cabins are open in the state parks throughout the state so you can spend more time in the park now without worrying about where you’re going to need to find a nearby restroom.
- Buy as many mini flags and flowers as you can and pick a cemetery to decorate. Teach your children why you’re decorating the soldiers graves and maybe see if you can find out more information about the people you’re celebrating. Maybe they were famous or were in a famous battle. Find out more about the soldiers so this holiday is more real to you and your family.
- If you don’t want to decorate the graves, put in some elbow grease and clean them. Pull up weeds if there are any. If you want to clean a gravestone, bring a solution of half bleach and half water and scrub the stone with a nylon or fiber brush-avoid metal tools to keep it from causing damage to the stone. Test a small section before you start to fully clean it to avoid causing damage. Let the solution set for 20-30 minutes and then clean off. Pick up trash in the cemetery and just help make the cemetery look beautiful to help commemorate the soldier’s sacrifice for this country.
- Have a movie day watching movies about the different wars. Saving Private Ryan is a classic but there’s so many different movies that touch on that topic that you can have a full day of movies to teach your children and maybe even the adults in your family about what happened during the wars and just how bad they were for everyone involved.
- No matter where you go this weekend, practice safe social distancing. This weekend is one of the first where more things are open in the state of Iowa but that doesn’t mean the threat is gone. Remember getting Covid-19 isn’t worth getting even if you’re healthy now because you don’t know what it will do your body. Remember to keep 6 feet away from those outside of your family and wash, wash, wash your hands.