10 Simple Ways to add Meaning to your Memorial Day

I really feel like the observation of Memorial Day has lost the true spirit of the day. It has been on my heart to find some activities and create some traditions that can help my family and I lean into meaning of Memorial Day.

A Little History

The first national observance of “Memorial Day” was on May 30, 1868. It was originally known as Decoration Day, and was a day dedicated to decorating the graves of Union soldiers who died fighting in the Civil War. Many cities all over the country began to hold celebrations each year on May 30th to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. The title Memorial Day gained popularity after WWII, and the day began to honor all fallen soldiers, and the name became official in 1967. In 1971 the observance was moved from the original May 30th date to the last Monday in May.

Over the years the significance of the day has begun to fade and the importance of honoring fallen soldiers has gotten lost in the mix of cook-outs, summer activities and sales. I love a good cook-out and gathering with friends, but I I think it is really important that we take a moment to learn, reflect and honor those who have fought for the freedoms we enjoy. I want my kids to understand the great significance of the day and the ultimate sacrifice that many brave men and women have made, even if we have not personally felt this great loss. I’m not suggesting that the weekend should be all somber and no fun, I’m just suggesting we all make a little effort to remember the true meaning of the day.

Adding Meaning to your Memorial Day Observation

Here are a 10 simple ways that you could add into your weekend and learn a little about what we are observing:

Pray for Fallen Soldiers

Pray is a great way to pause and remember fallen soldiers and their loved ones. It is a simple way to bring meaning and honor back into a gathering. I have a prayer printable that you can grab at the end of the post!

Set a Missing Man Table or Place Setting

The Missing Man Table is a tradition at many Military functions where a table is set to remember and honor those that are no longer with us. You can learn all about this tradition that is appropriate for both Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day HERE. I think it would be a simple yet powerful way to keep in the spirit of the holiday at your gathering. You can also read America’s White Table about the tradition.

Read a Memorial Day Book

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If you have been hanging out here at OneFestiveMama very long I’m sure you know that books are one of my go-tos for holidays, and Memorial Day is no exception. Reading about Memorial Day is a great way to highlight what the day is all about! Here are a few of our favorite titles for Memorial Day:

Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner

The Poppy Lady by Barbara E Walsh

A Poppy is to Remember by Heather Patterson

A Day For Rememberin’ by Leah Henderson

The Wall by Eve Bunting

Twenty One Steps by Jeff Gottesfeld

Learn about The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

After reading Twenty-One Steps I was curious to learn about The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C. I watched THIS video of the guards at the tomb since we have never made a trip to visit. You can learn facts about the tomb HERE.

Decorate the Graves of Soldiers or Display Images

If you have a friend or family member that you are honoring spend some time decorating their grave, or display an image of them in your home. If you do not know anyone personally you could still visit a local cemetery to look for graves belonging to soldiers to pray and/or leave flowers.

Learn about the Significance and History of Poppies

Poppies are a common symbol for Memorial Day and Veteran’s day after a poem written during WWI. You can read The Poppy Lady or A Poppy Is to Remember and make a Poppy themed craft. I love THESE coffee filter poppies that look simple, and surprisingly realistic or I love the idea of making a felt poppy like THIS that you could wear!

Attend a Local Event

Check out local events for a parade or ceremony that is honoring fallen soldiers. Take some time to attend and take in the festivities.

Get a Little Patriotic

Adding some patriotic touches to your gathering can help serve as a reminder that the day holds special meaning and can help to spark conversation with our kids about why we observe Memorial Day. You can pull out 4th of July decorations to help set the mood for the weekend and as a reminder of the flag the soldier were fighting for.

Learn about Saints/Servants of God who are Fallen Soldiers

Learn a little about Saints or individuals on the path to Sainthood that died in service to their country. Fr. Emil Kapaun is near and dear to my heart because he is from my home state of Kansas. He is a Servant of God and died as a prisoner of war in Korea. You can learn more about his inspiring story HERE. You could also learn about another Servant of God who died in battle, Fr. Vincent Capodanno.

Pay It Forward- Support a Current Soldier

I can’t think of a better way to honor a fallen soldier than to support a current soldier. You could use the website AnySoldier to find a soldier to support and send cards, or a care package. (I have not worked with Any Soldier, so I cannot voucher for the organization, I recommend doing your own research to make sure you are comfortable working with them.)

I hope that you found an activity or two that might help bring more meaning to your observance of this important holiday! Do you have a meaningful tradition for Memorial Day? I would love to hear about it!



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Hey, I’m Megan, wife to Chad, mama to our three rambunctious boys, Grady, Marshall, Stafford and our sweet little girl, Ainsley Nell.  I have a passion for celebrating holidays, cherishing seasons, creating memories, collecting traditions, connecting hearts and chasing joy.   Thanks for coming along for our journey.