There's No Wrong Way to Celebrate Memorial Day
Conversations at my family’s annual Memorial Day barbeques growing up were mostly about baseball and grilling techniques, but sometimes my Pop Pop would bring up “the War.” He rarely talked about it, but once in a while – usually after a few beers – he would let us hold his medals. He liked to scandalize my grandmother by unbuttoning his top shirt button and showing the grandkids the pocks and rivets marring his tanned shoulders. “Shrapnel,” he said, tracing the scars with his fingers.
At some point the adults would call the kids together for a toast and a prayer. Raising our red Solo cups full of lemonade, we’d recognize my two Pop Pops, one living and one dead, and toast all soldiers who gave their life. We would sit in dutiful silence for a few seconds, then go back to our hot dogs and water fights.
For many Americans, Memorial Day is just a long weekend inaugurating summer, free of work and full of parades and pool parties. Older generations might lament the general lack of reverence on this hallowed day of remembrance, as restaurants and bars - The Pig & The Sprout included – run drink specials and host throngs of guests looking to have a good time. Maybe they’re right, or maybe Memorial Day revelry is a kind of hope in action, honoring the dead by living.
The first official gathering of Americans in towns and cities across the country to honor those lost at war was in 1868. The collective grief of a nation on the other side of war – the Civil War had ended just three years earlier – but still raw from its horrors lent a somberness to those early gatherings, but even then, hope and joy crept in.
Women made pies and pound cake, wrangling toddlers into their Sunday best. Men shared handshakes, nips of whiskey and quiet words of condolence. Preachers and mayors and veterans spoke to reverent crowds nationwide; at Arlington National Cemetery, more than 5,000 people gathered to decorate 20,000 graves.
And then, when the speeches and prayers were over, a heartbroken nation celebrated. People rolled out blankets and unwrapped pies. Parades sprung up, with children marching to the music of local musicians. For an afternoon, the heartbroken smiled through their grief. Sure, some felt that relaxation and mirth were out of place: in 1888, the New York Tribune scolded President Grover Cleveland for indulging in a fishing trip with friends on Memorial Day. Still, the relaxing, socializing, and celebrating continue year over year, even for many that grieve.
This year, I hope you honor and remember those who have sacrificed in whatever ways feel right to you. Eat good food, visit a gravestone, party in the streets, or all of the above. When reflecting on Memorial Day, Navy pilot Ken Harbough said, “I know that this day and the joy it brings are gifts I can never repay. Except, perhaps, by living a life full of happiness as my fallen friends would have wanted.”
Celebrate with The Pig & the Sprout, At Home or In Person
Free mimosas to anyone with a military ID
Brunch begins on Memorial Day at 9am – join us!
Enjoy locally-made Smokin' Ace hot dogs at the Pig & the Sprout