The Beginning of BBQ Season
We call it Memorial Day, but in a lot of ways it’s just the official beginning of summer, barbecue season. It used to be Memorial Day, May 30, a day to honor the war dead, but now it’s a three-day weekend, our welcome to summer. There are more news stories about gas prices than battlefields, more ads for beach chairs than for grave decorations.
Maybe the change began in 1971 when the Congress decided three day weekends were more important than days of commemoration. Or maybe it began fifty years earlier when the last generation of Civil War veterans and widows had just about faded away, and folks were no longer calling it Decoration Day. No longer did every town and village, every family, have a painful reminder of the toll taken by war.
What came to be known as Memorial Day has its roots in the time just after the Civil War. By the end of May the weather was warm enough in most places in the north for cemetery plantings, and the graves of the recent war dead were honored with flowers and flags and eventually townspeople gathered parades and even picnics. The mayor or maybe the valedictorian at the high school might recite the Gettysburg Address. Nearly everyone could remember a son or brother, a father or husband, who had not returned from battle.
Confederate Memorial Days were celebrated (and still are) across the south at other times.
To be sure, in places like Langhorne Memorial Day traditions linger with our own wonderful parade.
But let’s face it, in a world where fewer than 40% of university students even know the century in which the Civil War occurred, heading to the beach makes a lot more sense than memorizing an old speech that begins so oddly, “Four score and seven years ago…”
It’s a three day weekend, the beginning of BBQ season. Happy summer!
Full disclosure: Becky and I are taking advantage of a three day weekend, stretching to four and joining 28 million other Americans who will be traveling this weekend. I just hope not all 28 million are driving to Michigan. We’ll be visiting our daughter and son-in-law and seeing their new house for the first time and then together with them going to see our son and daughter-in-law (probably our last pre-baby visit) in their new town a couple of hours away. On Sunday morning we’ll be Episcopalians and, who knows, there may be a barbecue sometime on Monday.
No need to be cranky about it, but here are a few suggestions to help remember why we call the day Memorial Day:
- If you’re in Langhorne, go to the parade on Monday and be sure to worship at LPC on Sunday.
- If you’re away for the weekend, find a church and worship with them on Sunday.
- Offer prayers of thanks for those who have given that “last full measure of devotion,” and prayers that, as Lincoln would say in the Second Inaugural, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
- Take some time and read, why not memorize, that speech that begins so oddly:
FOURSCORE and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Enjoy that BBQ