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Columbia Press

Columnists & Other Opinions

Senior Moments: Should you wear white to the Memorial Day barbecue?

Emma Edwards
By Emma Edwards, Friday, June 1, 2018

Oh, mercy me! I wore white shoes to church last Sunday.

Our president’s wife, Melania Trump, wore white outfits as early as April and a white hat a few weeks ago.

It was so shocking to some that it was reported in USA Today. What is this wearing white taboo anyway?

Being from Michigan, it would have been more than shocking to be seen in white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. It was just something we took for granted, passed on from generation to generation.

As most of us know, we celebrate Memorial Day on Monday. This year, it falls on May 28, the last Monday in May. Incidentally, Warrenton’s meal site will be closed May 28, making it easier for those desiring to attend Memorial Day services at Fort Steven’s National Cemetery.

And, of course, to be part of other events scheduled that day.

Some of us remember when Memorial Day was called Decoration Day, when we went as a family to decorate and tidy gravesites of deceased loved ones. However, in consulting my “free encyclopedia” called Wikipedia, I learned that in 1882, the name formally was changed to Memorial Day in memory and honor of those who gave their lives fighting for a common cause, America.

In most of America, it marks the beginning of summer and the freedom to wear white shoes and white trousers and on and on.

The practice of decorating soldiers’ graves had become widespread in the North as early as 1865. By 1870, the remains of nearly 300,000 Union dead had been buried in 73 national cemeteries, mostly near the battlefields in the South. But two of the best known are Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania and Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.

By the 1870s, Decoration Day speeches praised soldiers of both the Union and the Confederacy. By the 1950s, the theme was “American Exceptionalism” and duty to uphold freedom in the world.

Think about it this year, as we remember those who died or were wounded for our country and prayerfully realize we don't know them all, but we owe them all.

In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Washington’s Birthday so they’d fall on three-day weekends.

I vote for celebrating them on the original day, which from 1868 to 1970 was May 30.

I wonder if the average student knows the real meaning of Memorial Day, other than giving them a day off from school? And, of course, the wearing of white and picnics and tidying up gravesites of loved ones.

Be careful this year not to spill barbecue sauce on your white pants.

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