Decoration Day?

Does anyone still mark Memorial Day as Decoration Day, with cleaning and visiting graves, and taking lunch on the grounds?

Please comment if you do, or know someone who does.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Both my grandmothers marked this as Decoration Day, and sometimes they would bring us kids along for a picnic while they planted flags near the gravestones. As a teen-ager it always seemed somewhat Victorian or perhaps a shadow of the Great War. Of my grandparents, only my father’s mother is still alive, and she doesn’t do this the cleaning and decorating as much anymore. I was told that today she would simply be leaving flowers and little flags at both my grandfather’s grave, and the grave of his sister (who I think was army auxillary in WW2).

    The church I served in rural Ohio had an AUW chapter that still did the cleaning and decorating at the old Universalist burial grounds. And the ladies would also do a picnic for themselves when they were done.

  2. My parents (in their seventies) still mark the day this way, tending their parents’ and other relatives’ graves in rural southern Ohio.

  3. I don’t; but I am interested in the history behind it, especially with regard to it originally being a “Confederate” holiday which many were reluctant/resentful to see adopted by Yankees. Yet I’ve read that it also later became a vehicle for helping to knit the country back together…a vehicle driven primarily by women.

  4. Yes, we did exactly that although we didn’t brink all the supplies to clean the graves as I did as a kid with my grandparents. We place a flag at my Dad’s grave. Took daughter to see all of her grandparents though.

  5. I travel 500 miles round trip every May to decorate my family gravesite together with my one remaining aunt. When Memorial Day arrives, scores of graves are decorated with flowers. The same is true here. Actually, I don’t know of anybody in our little Maine town who DOESN’T do this, unless they’re unable to. There are still Memorial Day “exercises” (a program led by the American Legion and the school children) and a parade as well.

    It’s an even bigger event in Canada when they observe Remembrance Day each November. Canada lost a large percentage of its male population in World War I, and it is that sacrifice that remains the focus.

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