American Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, which began with Southern ladies decorating the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers in 1868. Today it is celebrated all over the United States and its territories as a memorial to all those who have died in military service.
from a Book Published in 1891
If you are just getting acquainted with the Memorial Day custom, and wanting to know how you can participate in a meaningful way, it is first necessary to know the history and purpose of memorials. God often told His people in the Old Testament to raise a memorial so that others who passed by it would be reminded of something that took place. Memorials are reminders of the values that people stood for and the historical events surrounding them.
One ancient but living memorial that thousands of people observe each week is the Lord's Supper, which Jesus instituted on the night on which he was betrayed. He taught his disciples that the unleavened bread represented his broken body, and that the fruit of the vine represented his blood. Matthew 26:25-30. The purpose of this memorial was to provide a time to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Jesus told his disciples when they took the emblems, "This do, in remembrance of Me." We observe this memorial on the first day of the week when we come together to worship. Memorials are important because they keep us from forgetting lessons and events that are integral to our future days.
Observing a memorial day effectively will require a respectful attitude and a feeling of solemnity, accompanied by some knowledge of history. In America, there is a great choice of ways to observe Memorial Day. In or around nearly every single town, there is an official event or ceremony available for people to attend. You can find some of these events by typing in "Memorial Day Events in (your area)."
There are thousands of Memorial Day services across the country, but that is nothing compared to the hundreds more personal family and individual memorial day celebrations, where people plan their own activities. We always enjoyed having an old fashioned farm lunch taken picnic-style, and reading about the custom of Memorial Day so that our friends and family would not forget what it meant. On the Lord's Day, previous to the Monday holiday, a sermon was usually preached about the purpose of observing meaningful memorials.
Historical re-enactment groups host Memorial Day shows in various places across the country, and FM/Classical radio stations broadcast hours of patriotic music and hymns with speeches, on this day. If you are spending the day at home, you can listen to some of these broadcasts on the web.
You can read more about Decoration Day and Memorial Day in a book called "Victorian Entertaining" by John Crosby Freeman, and in a chapter called "The Art of Living" by Linda Lichter in her book "The Benevolence of Manners. The author spent some time detailing the Victorian's respectful conduct during mourning and memorials, and showed how it brings an appreciation for life to those that remain.
If you are in any doubt that this country has strength, value and worth, just read comments by people in other countries when they congratulate Americans on their special observance days. "I love my country," wrote one man after watching a video of a Memorial Day service, "But I truly wish I loved my country as much as Americans love theirs." Another person added, "I wish people loved my country as much as other countries love America." In some international events, citizens of foreign countries place their hands on their hearts while the American anthem is being played. We must not forget that in observing memorials to show appreciation for those who have contributed to our safety, we also receive unexpected blessings and respect.
God commanded the nation of Israel to set aside time to celebrate their nation by honoring God and their leaders. We can re-enact that on Memorial Day and take courage in the fact that our country is unique among the nations, not because of its location, but because of its concept of freedom, enterprise and worship of God. Any country can have what America has, if they have the beliefs and freedom to enjoy the fruits of their labors, beliefs of work and worship, free enterprise, love and loyalty to God, and the belief that they are obligated to develop and use their talents to glorify God and serve others.
You might be interested in watching this video about Sergeant York, and American Hero, for part of your Memorial Day observance.