Memorial Day. July 4th. Labor Day. These three holidays have a lot in common. First, they featured the patriotic colors of red, white and blue; second, many Americans find an excuse to use the day to become heavily intoxicated; third, young adults use these holidays to capture the perfect photograph to post to Instagram and other various social media sites. And finally, while Memorial Day typically marks the beginning of the summer vacation, Labor Day typically marks the end.
However, these are not the reasons for which these holidays were intended to be celebrated. Memorial Day was created as a federal holiday to commemorate and remember all the men and women who died while serving in the various armed forces offered by the United States. This holiday was initially named Decoration Day because it was decided that it would become a day for the nation to decorate the graves of those who fought in war with flowers. This day was established, three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day would be observed on May 30, for it is believed that many felt flowers would be in bloom across the country by this date. The day was later changed to Memorial Day to pay respect to all the fallen and the date was modified so that, this holiday occurs on the last Monday of May each year.
While some honor Memorial Day for its original principles, many do not. I personally surveyed how my family and friends spend the day and all their answers were the same across the board: they have barbeques or go to the beach. Additionally, many women look forward to Memorial Day because they can wear white pants and shoes.
Independence Day, most commonly known as July 4th, is another federal holiday that commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which nationally declared America’s independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. However, July 4, 1776 was not the day that the United States decided on declaring their independence (that was decided on July 2, 1776) and it was not the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed either (that was done on August 2,1776) but rather, on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress decided upon the final wording and phrasing of the document. So why July 4th then? Well, after the ending of the War of 1812, the Federalist Party began to print copies of the Declaration and have it recirculate throughout America, all with the date July 4, 1776. Additionally, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826. Many believe that their death date helped promote July 4 to become a day of celebration for the lives of these two great men and all they did for America during their lifetimes.
Therefore, even though Americans do not typically honor these men on July 4th it is not their fault that it has become tradition for July 4th to be a day of celebration of America’s freedom. However, does one truly think that while Thomas Jefferson was formulating the ideas and principles for the Declaration of Independence, that he was thinking, “Years from now when Americans are celebrating this day, celebrating our efforts to ensure their freedom, I hope that they celebrate with hotdogs, beer funnels and fireworks?”
Finally, Labor Day. Labor Day, I believe, is the most correctly celebrated holiday out of the three; it is a day for Americans to take a small hiatus from work and celebrate all the hard work they complete every day. Labor Day, a celebration of the American labor movement, is always celebrated on the first Monday of September. Additionally, it is a day of dedication to the economic and social achievements of all American workers, a national tribute to the contributions workers across the country have made to help with the well-being and prosperity of America.
The only problem I have with how many Americans celebrate Labor Day is that it has become a commercialized holiday in the sense that so many companies have huge sales on Labor Day. While these companies enjoy Labor Day because they will earn a lot of profit, it is unfair to their employees, who have to work on a national day of rest. No one in the country should have to work on Labor Day because everyone deserves to be celebrated for his or her contributions to America.
It would be irrational to say that Americans have to be told how to specifically celebrate and honor these three summer holidays. But, maybe if people could just stop for a moment during their festivities and try to remember why these days are special it would bring some justice to the true principles of these three important days.
“The History of Labor Day.” U.S. Department of Labor. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2014.
“Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.” Memorial Day History -. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, n.d. Web. 08 July 2014.
“The Story of the Fourth of July.” Declaration of Independence Full Text, US Independence Day Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2014.