By Mary Tucker
There are a number of days that can be celebrated in May, including May Day (May 1), the Mexican holiday Cinco De Mayo, (May 5), Florence Nightingale’s birthday (May 12), Armed Forces Day (May 20), the first climbing of Mt. Everest (May 29, 1953) and the day the first ice cream freezer was patented (May 29, 1948). But the two most celebrated days in May are Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May and Memorial Day on the last Monday of May. I thought it would be interesting to look into the origin and history of these days.
Historians claim that Mother’s Day emerged from ancient festivals dedicated to mother goddesses. In Ancient Greece, Rhea, mother of gods and goddesses, was celebrated. In Rome, as early as 250BC, the mother goddess Cybele was worshipped for three days from March 15 to March 18 (the Ides of March). But none of these festivals honored our immediate mothers as does our own Mother’s Day.
It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of Memorial Day. In the 1860s, spontaneous gatherings in both the North and South formed to honor those who died in the Civil War by placing wreaths and flags on their graves. On May 1, Union General John Logan, Grand Army of the Republic (made up of soldiers and sailors) wanted to establish a holiday to commemorate all those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Civil War and worked toward that goal. Decoration Day, as it was originally called, was first celebrated on May 30, 1868 and soon spread throughout the country. After World War I the significance of Memorial Day expanded to include all U.S. military who died fighting in all wars as well as war heroes. In 1971 Congress made Memorial Day a National Holiday celebrated on the last Monday in May. Memorial Day is formally acknowledged at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Each grave is decorated with an American Flag. In Washington, DC the President or Vice President places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At 3:30 pm a moment of silence is observed to the sound of a bugle playing taps. Memorial Day has evolved into a three-day weekend. Cities, towns, and villages have their own particular celebrations, usually with reunions, family gatherings, visiting and decorating graves of loved ones, barbeques and parades with marching bands, and speeches, similar to the way we celebrate in Andes, always keeping in mind those who gave their lives in all wars. ~