Memorial Day Should NOT Be On Sale
Memorial Day again upon us. Known as the unofficial start of summer the extended weekend often features barbecues, get togethers, and massive discounts everywhere.
I take issue with the marketing world’s push to drive business based upon a day reserved to remember and pay tribute to our Nations’ war dead. Not only do I feel the practice of promoting and offering huge deals to potential customers on Memorial Day to be tacky, I think it is downright disrespectful.
The History Of Memorial Day
The very first Memorial Day occurred on April 26, 1866 in remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of American lives lost in the Civil War.
In January 1866, the Ladies’ Memorial Association in Columbus, Georgia, passed a motion agreeing that they would designate a day to throw flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers buried at the cemetery.
However, the ladies didn’t want this to be an isolated event, so Mary Ann Williams, the group’s secretary, wrote a letter and sent it to newspapers all over the United States.
On April 26, 1866, people across the South heeded Williams’ letter and threw flowers on the graves of Civil War soldiers. Some Southern women noticed that Yankee graves, interspersed with the graves of their loved ones, sat untended, said Richard Gardiner, an associate professor of history education at Columbus State University in Georgia, and co-author of “The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday” (Columbus State University, 2014).
“They start to see these Union graves that are just laying there, kind of barren,” he said. “Their hearts are warmed. Their hearts start to feel bad for the mothers who have lost these children. So, they start to throw flowers on the Yankee graves. And then that story gets published everywhere.”
Many Southern women repeated the practice on April 26 in 1866 and 1867, and in 1868, “the story was just so strong and so well known that the authorities in the North said, ‘Look, we’ve got to take this thing and make it national,'” Gardiner said.
In May 1868, the day became a federal holiday. But there were few, if any, flowers blooming in the North in April. So, the government pushed the date up a month, to May 30, so that people could decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with wildflowers, Gardiner said.
Memorial Day remained on May 30 until 1971, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect. This act mandated that federal holidays occur on Mondays, and made Memorial Day the last Monday in May, Gardiner said.
America’s War Dead
Revolutionary War – 4,435
War of 1812 – 2,260
Mexican War – 13,283
Civil War – 618,000
Spanish-American – 2,446
WW1 – 115,516
WW2 – 405,399
Korean War – 36,574
Vietnam – 58,220
Gulf War – 383
Iraq/Afghanistan – 6,882
The numbers above are representative of numbers of deaths that occurred during combat. There are untold thousands of other soldiers that lost their lives after their conflict ended – one example being thousands of Vietnam vets who have succumbed to various cancers caused by Agent Orange and the like.
While retailers jump on the Memorial Day holiday because of the transition into the warmer weather months, somehow the American flag always seems to make it into their advertising:
American Eagle Extra 50% Off Memorial Day Clearance Sale
Best Buy: Up to 60% Off Hot Deals & Memorial Day Sale
Home Depot: Up to 50% Off Memorial Day Sale at HomeDepot.com
JCPenney: Memorial Day Sale + Extra 20-25% Off Entire Purchase with Code: ACTNOW7 or $10 Off $25 with Code: BUYNOW7 through 5/30 at JCPenney.com
Kohls: Memorial Day Weekend Sale + $10 Off $25 or More w/ Code: PICNIC through 5/30 + 15% Off Entire Purchase w/ Code:
TREEBUD through 6/14 at Kohls.com. You can use both coupons in the same order!
Macy’s: Up to 75% Off Memorial Day Sales + Extra 15-20% Off with Code: PT85W2 through 5/30 at Macys.com
Michaels: 20% Off Your Entire Purchase Including Sale with Code MEMDAY52916 through 5/30 at Michaels.com
Walmart: Up to 50% Off Walmart Memorial Day 2016 Sale at Walmart.com
Target: Up to 60% Off Memorial Day Sale at Target.com + 30% Off Clothing, Shoes & Accessories with Code MEMDAY30
Celebrate By Remembrance, Not Savings
This year, don’t get sucked into the advertising vortex during Memorial Day weekend. Take some time off of work, enjoy time with your family and friends, sleep in, and say a prayer for those lost in war.
One of the most personally impactful things I’ve ever done was to visit a National Cemetery on Memorial Day to pay my respects. When you’re standing amongst row after row of plain white headstones decorated with thousands of little American flags, you really start to gain a better perspective of what this holiday is supposed to mean.