This coming Memorial Day weekend is a three-day holiday. What this often means for most of the country is that it's time to dust off the barbecue and get ready for summer cookouts. Since we have that beach party thing going on all year in our wonderful climate, Memorial Day weekend is not such a dramatic transition into summer for us.
As we're sure you know, Memorial Day isn't a holiday that commemorates picnics. It's a holiday to commemorate our war dead. Many different communities lay claim to having established the holiday, and it likely had multiple origins as a nation began to heal and honor its fallen soldiers at the end of the Civil War.
One version is that the holiday began May 1, 1865, as a celebration to honor the completion of reburial of Civil War dead in Charleston, S.C. Mostly black Union soldiers who had been interred in mass graves were unearthed and reburied individually. An estimated 10,000 people, mainly black, turned out for a day of sermons, singing and picnics. The Civil War was over, and the slaves had been freed.