Memorial Day Traditions

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Some of the most common Memorial Day traditions that are still practiced today include:

  • Every Memorial Day, the U.S. flag is quickly raised to the tops of flagpoles, slowly lowered to half-mast, and then raised again to full height at noon. The time at half-mast is meant to honor the million-plus fallen U.S. soldiers who have died for their country over the years. Re-raising the flag is meant to symbolize the resolve of the living to carry on the fight for freedom so that the nation’s heroes will not have died in vain.
  • It is very common to visit cemeteries, particularly military cemeteries, at this time of year to decorate the graves. Small American flags, flowers, and wreathes are commonly placed by the tombstones.
  • On the U.S. Capitol Building’s West Lawn, a Memorial Day concert is held annually. The musical performances are broadcast live around the country on PBS t.v. and NPR radio. Attendance is free, but most watch or listen from home.
  • There are literally thousands of Memorial Day parades all across the country in cities small and large.
  • Many will wear or put on display red poppies on this day as a symbol of fallen soldiers. This tradition grew out of the famous poem known as In Flander’s Fields.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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