U.S. culture (week 22): Memorial Day

HTP is committed to maintaining a strong cultural component of its J-1 Program and regularly publishes topics related to U.S. culture. This week Program manager Tina Alford talks about the Holiday that marks the start of summer: Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a day America calls for celebrations, barbeques and, of course, remembering America’s troops. No matter where you are in the United States, you’ll know see their Patriotism surface everywhere, along with hot dogs and hamburgers.

Wondering how it started? Well, over 25 cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day around 1866, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried. However, officially in 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff.

Since its origins, Memorial Day has progressed into what it is today. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Others volunteer for the Annual Decorations Days where they place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

US Army Lt. Col Brandon Robbins, a membe

This might have even been the start of Family Reunions. In the South this was common for people gather on the designated day and put flowers on graves and renew contacts with kinfolk and others. There often is a religious service and a “dinner on the ground,” the traditional term for a potluck meal in which people used to spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the “memorial day” idea. This is not common today.

Instead, you can expect a barbeque pits in the back yard filling the air with the scent of grilling chicken thighs, hamburger patties and/or hot dogs. Aside from the many parades and celebrations, there might even be a hot dog eating or watermelon eating contest, live music, movies at the park, pool parties.


So what will your city be doing this weekend?

Atlanta – Stone MountainPark salutes the troops for three days in May, featuring free concerts, the laser show, special fireworks finale and other patriotic activities. For in-park activities, all active and retired military personnel will receive one free AdventurePass with valid military ID and will save up to $10 off per person for immediate family members and 20 percent off food and merchandise.

Boston – The Boston Calling Festival kicks off this Memorial Day Weekend at CityHallPlaza in downtown Boston. Crash Line Productions, Bowery Boston and Aaron Dessner (composer/guitarist/keyboards) of The National have put together an outstanding line-up. The festival also features two stages, with no overlapping sets, allowing music fans the ability to catch every minute of live music.

Chicago – Light It Up | The summer schedule for Navy Pier fireworks officially kicks of on Memorial Day weekend, with a synchronized show every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10:15 p.m. through Labor Day weekend. Spirit Cruises and its family of vessels are offering several cruises all weekend long.
New York – Commemorative Events and Parades (through Monday) Ceremonies are planned on Friday at noon in Lower Manhattan at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, 55 Water Street, and on Monday at 10 a.m. at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Drive and 89th Street. Parades are planned as well, with Monday processions including those along Northern Boulevard in Little Neck-Douglaston, Queens, at 10 a.m.; along City Island Avenue, City Island, the Bronx, at 10:30 a.m.; in Bay Ridge-Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, at Third Avenue and 87th Street, at 11 a.m.; and in West Brighton, Staten Island, at Hart Boulevard and Forest Avenue, at noon. More events and details: unitedwarveterans.org/uwvc-calendar.

San Francisco – The 36th annual Carnaval San Francisco 2014 – Celebration of the World Cup, is a FREE 2-day family festival in San Francisco’s Mission District, (Harrison Street between 16th and 24th Streets) over Memorial Day weekend, May 24-25, 10am-6pm, where we will showcase the very best Latin American and Caribbean cultural arts and traditions. Carnaval San Francisco is the largest multi-cultural festival on the West Coast, and features global cuisine, international music, dance, arts & crafts, Ninolandia with children’s activities for the kids and more. The Grand Parade is on Sunday, May 25, 9:30am, with 56 marching and dancing contingents.

Los Angeles – Since 1972, the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce has produced Fiesta Hermosa, the ”largest arts & crafts fair in Southern California”. Over 300 artists and crafters are featured, including painters, photographers, ceramicists, jewelers, sculptors, and handicrafters. The festival takes place every Memorial Day and Labor Day Weekend (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) in downtown Hermosa Beach, California. With the ocean as a backdrop, Hermosa Beach is an ideal place for a summer festival with temperatures of 80 degrees and balmy sea breezes.

WashingtonDC – At dusk on Memorial Day eve, the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol transforms into a patriotic concert venue. The free performance pays tribute to those who have served our country, and with a portion of the evening being dedicated to honoring current service members, there will be many opportunities for you to recognize active servicewoman or serviceman. As for the concert, it will be co-hosted this year by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise, two actors who have taken on veterans causes in recent years, and it features the National Symphony Orchestra, led by pops conductor Jack Everly.

Comments are closed.