Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day during the COVID-19 Lock Down

Most years, Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to summer. Americans salute and honor the memory of our military heroes with grand parades, lively family picnics and crowded barbecues.

Man Holding American Flag in left hand, while draped in American flag.

But, this year, everything is different. Even as the country moves forward with the reopening process, people continue to practice caution and avoid unnecessary contact with others. Some states and counties are still under lock down, and many state and local governments continue to mandate mask-wearing and social distancing, which severely limits in-person socializing. Also, many annual Memorial Day events have been canceled around the country.

Don’t let any of that put a damper on your Memorial Day plans, though. While you may not be able to celebrate the way you usually do, you can still commemorate the day dedicated to our fallen military heroes without compromising your health and safety.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Create your own parade 

The town’s yearly Memorial Day parade may have been canceled, but you can get together with your neighbors and salute our heroes, COVID-19 style. Arrange a car parade for the neighborhood and have everyone decorate their vehicles with patriotic signs and banners in honor of the day.

Watch the National Memorial Day Concert from home 

You don’t have to head out to Washington, D.C. this year to watch the National Memorial Day Concert. PBS will be broadcasting the annual concert on Sunday, May 24, at 8 p.m. As always, the concert will feature performances and tributes filmed from around the country to honor our servicepeople who gave their all.

Get outdoors

Celebrate the start of summer in the glorious outdoors. Break out the bike, take a fishing trip, lace up your hiking boots or enjoy a nature walk with your family.

Visit George Washington’s Virginia estate 

Why not treat the entire family to a fascinating history lesson this Memorial Day? Mount Vernon might currently be closed to the public, but you can now enjoy a virtual 360-degree tour of the estate on its website.

Run in a virtual race

Live races are still prohibited in much of the country, but you can compete in a virtual race this Memorial Day. Check out Racehawk.com for a list of virtual races you can join this Memorial Day weekend.

Pay a virtual visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The memorial, based in Arlington, Va., will be hosting its annual Memorial Day Ceremony via webcast this year. The event will run from 1-2 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, May 25, and will honor those who served in the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam War.

 Your Turn: How are you celebrating Memorial Day this year? Tell us about it in the comments.

What To Buy And What To Skip On Memorial Day

Since 1971, Memorial Day has been celebrated as an extended weekend away fromtwo women shopping in the spring work–and the unofficial start of summer. It’s time to get that grill going, dust off your patio set, and break out the white jeans you’ve had stashed away all winter.

More recently, Memorial Day has also turned into a second Black Friday for retailers, each offering loads of sale events in stores and online,and each promising to save you heaps of money. Lots of these sales will run for a full two weeks, starting a week before Memorial Day, which falls on May 27 this year, and continuing until the end of the month.

As always, though, not every marked-down product is actually a bargain. In fact, you can sometimes get the same product a lot cheaper by waiting a few months-or even just a few weeks. And of course, if the for-sale item is not one you need, you’re better off leaving it in the store. But, if you know what to shop for and you’re careful to stick to what you need and can afford, you can find some great deals.

Let’s take a look at what to buy and what to skip this Memorial Day weekend.

Buy: Outdoor essentials

Get ready to welcome summer with outdoor gear like grills, lawn mowers, mulch, ladders, and more, which may be marked down as much as 50% at stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Online retailers, like Wayfair and Overstock, host similar events and may offer free two-day shipping in honor of the summer season kickoff.

Skip: Electronics

You’re going to see lots of crazy-low deals on gaming consoles, laptops, and tablets around Memorial Day weekend. But, unless you need one now, it’s better to wait it out. You’ll find even better deals on electronics during Black Friday season, when retailers are looking to clear out last year’s models to make room for the newer inventory. If you need your electronics sooner than November, you may consider waiting until July, when many retailers host “Black Friday in July” events that feature steep discounts on electronics.

Buy: Furniture

Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to spruce up both the inside and outside of your home with new furniture. You can snag a great deal on a fully-loaded patio set, pick up a comfortable sofa, and even swap your old mattresses for new ones, all at great prices. You may need to use a coupon code to qualify for the reduced price, so be sure to check out a retailer’s website before hitting the store.

Skip: TVs

Don’t make the mistake of picking up a new TV in May just because you found one at an excellent price. Most marked-down TVs you’ll find around Memorial Day are older models with outdated features. You can find much better deals on newer models in November or January.

Buy: Wedding registry gifts

Department stores, like Macy’s and JC Penney, offer discounts on household essentials, like coffee makers and blenders, in advance of the wedding season. You’ll also find markdowns on these items at specialty stores, like Bed Bath & Beyond. If you’ve got any weddings to attend this summer, pick out a registry gift now to save big.

Skip: Cars

If you’re looking for a new set of wheels, wait until after June. You’ll find the hottest deals on cars between July and October, when dealerships are trying to move old inventory and make room for the newer models.

Buy: Tires

Preparing the family car for a summer road trip? You’ll find the year’s best prices on tires around Memorial Day weekend.

Skip: Swimwear

Don’t splurge on swimwear and other summer apparel just yet. Wait until June, or even mid-summer if you can swing it, for the steepest discounts.

Buy: Spring apparel

Retailers have been displaying their warmer-weather line for months now. That makes the end of May a perfect time to stock up on spring wear.

Skip: Power tools

You’ll only have to wait a few weeks for the hottest deals on power tools. Father’s Day sales usually start at the beginning of June, and they offer deep discounts on power tools and other outdoor power equipment.

Buy: Appliances and home décor

Retailers and manufacturers alike offer markdowns on large household appliances, like refrigerators, dishwashers, and ovens, at the end of May. Hold onto your receipts, as you may need to mail them to the manufacturer for a cash-back rebate. You can also score a deal on home décor products, like light fixtures, flooring, and kitchen essentials, at Memorial Day sale events.

Skip: Jewelry

All that glam won’t glow so brightly if you have to drain your wallet to pay for it. Skip the diamonds this month and wait until late summer, when the jewelry business is at its slowest and retailers put some of their products on sale. If you can wait even longer, push off your purchase until the end of February, when jewelry prices are at their lowest.

Now that you know what to buy and what to skip this Memorial Day, you can kick off the season of poolside barbecues and aimless road trips by snagging some great deals!

Your Turn: What was your best Memorial Day find ever? Tell us all about it in the comments!



Everyone Understands the True Meaning of the Day: Myths and Facts

In 2000, a Gallup Poll showed that only 28% of Americans understood the true meaning200514832-001 of Memorial Day. In response, President Clinton issued an official memorandum for all federal departments, stating in part:

“… I ask that all Americans come together to recognize how fortunate we are to live in freedom and to observe a universal ‘National Moment of Remembrance’ on each Memorial Day. This memorial observance represents a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.”

Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act on Dec. 28 of that year, designating 3 p.m. local time on every Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance.

It’s Always Been Called Memorial Day

Actually, it was originally Decoration Day. The purpose was to visit cemeteries and place flowers on graves of fallen loved ones who had died as soldiers. In May 1868, Gen. John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month: “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country … and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

In 1882, many people began calling it Memorial Day, although the Decoration Day name didn’t disappear until after World War II. A federal law passed in 1967 officially made the name of the holiday “Memorial Day.”

Memorial Day Commemorates the Fallen of All U.S. Wars

Now it does, but it originally honored only those that were lost in the Civil War. During World War I, as the United States found itself engaged in another major conflict, the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who had died in any war.

Although WWI was called “The War to End All Wars,” the Civil War is without question the U.S. holder of that title. Some 750,000 soldiers died, making it the deadliest war in our history and requiring the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. For comparison, about 644,000 Americans have died in all other conflicts combined.

Memorial Day has Nothing to do with Waterloo, Right?

Many towns claim to be the birthplace of this tradition, but it’s unclear exactly where it originated. By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to their fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

In April 1866, for instance, just a year after the war ended, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. It was recognized at the time as an act of healing regional wounds. That same month, in Carbondale, Illinois, 219 Civil War veterans marched to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Logan would later deliver his address. The ceremony gives Carbondale a claim to the first organized, community-wide Memorial Day observance.

Despite this and other independent observances, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation on May 26, 1966, naming Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo – named after the more famous one in Belgium where Napoleon was defeated – was chosen because it hosted an annual community-wide event each Memorial Day after 1866. During that time, businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Memorial Day Has Always Been the Last Monday in May

The date of Decoration Day, as Logan called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle and because flowers would be in bloom. Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 for decades, but in 1968, a century after Logan’s decree, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, establishing Memorial Day as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May. The legislation took effect in 1971 and was intended to give federal employees a three-day vacation.

Flags Fly at Half-Mast All Day on Memorial Day

Almost right. Many Americans display the United States flag from their front porches or attached to a flagpole. Others decorate their front lawns with mini flags. Most federal buildings, including post offices and courthouses, fly their flags at half-mast. If you want to follow suit, feel free, but you technically should fly flags at half-staff only from sunrise until noon, then raise them to the top until sunset.

The commemorative flag tradition at Arlington National Cemetery began in the 1950s. Soldiers now place flags on over 260,000 graves there. The national cemetery, located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., was originally the home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. It became a cemetery after the war to bury the nation’s honored dead.

Confederate States Didn’t Observe Memorial Day Until After WWI

That’s not quite true. Because of resentment toward the north after the war, most U.S. southern states decided not to celebrate Decoration Day in 1868. All but one of them honored their dead on separate days until after World War I (whereas, by 1890 every northern state had made Decoration Day an official holiday).

There’s one exception, though: Mississippi. On April 25, 1866, the town of Columbus embraced both the Union and Confederate casualties buried in its cemetery. This tradition is still carried on today in the state: Blue uniforms or gray, all are honored for their sacrifice.

Nine southern states set aside a separate day for honoring Confederate dead, variously called Confederate Memorial Day, Confederate Decoration Day and Confederate Heroes Day: Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana and Tennessee.

No Country Can Eat 800 Hot Dogs a Second

Au contraire. Although Memorial Day can and should be a solemn occasion, Americans also gravitate toward parades, road trips and barbecues on that weekend. And the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council – yep, there is one – says that, on Memorial Day, we’ll consume 818 grilled dogs per second. That’s just short of 71 million a day.

Have a fun and safe Memorial Day holiday weekend. See how many of these facts or myths your friends and family at the picnic might know. But, most of all, keep in mind that, for 150 years, the real reason for the holiday has been to honor fallen American heroes.