Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day in the US and Spring Bank Holiday in UK

So many of my readers and blogs I visit are located in the UK. I kept seeing the term "bank holiday," and wondered about it. So, after some internet searching, I discovered that these are really public holidays. They are called bank holidays because banks are closed and most people have the day off. Excluded are police, fire fighters, hospital employees, and those working in the tourist trade, of course.

There are only 8 bank holidays in the UK, as opposed to many more in other European countries. Two are in May. One is May 1, known as the May Day Bank Holiday and the other is the last Monday in May, known as the Spring Bank Holiday or Whitsun, which is the British name for Pentecost, a huge Christian festival that is celebrated 49 days after Easter.

The May Day Bank Holiday happens to coincide with Memorial Day in the US, which is one week after Victoria Day in Canada. Victoria Day is May 24, or the Monday on or before May 24. It celebrates the birthday of the reigning Canadian Monarch, even though the date does not change with the change of monarchs. Instead, it is named for the birthday of Queen Victoria.

When I think of Memorial Day, I think of cemeteries. Of course, I have a love of cemeteries, and the older, the better.

What better cemeteries than those found in New Orleans. This is a photo of one I found in Wiki Commons because my New Orleans photos are all buried in boxes in my basement.

However, most people think of Memorial Day as one to honor veterans. I was surprised to learn the Veteran's Administration, a part of our US government, maintains 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico, as well as 33 soldier's lots and monument sites.

Much to my surprise, I found three National Cemeteries in Kansas, as well as two soldier's lots. The next two images are from the Veteran's Administration web site.

This photo is of Fort Scott National Cemetery in eastern Kansas.

This one is from Fort Leavenworth in north central Kansas. You might have to click on these to actually see the entire photo.

This photo from Wiki commons, is the cemetery where the President is scheduled to speak today.

This Wiki commons photo is from Fort Logan in Denver, Colorado.

Of course, most Americans think of Arlington National Cemetery as the most famous National Cemetery, and probably the one they are most familiar with. It is located in Arlington, Virginia.

These photos (directly above and two following) are from the Arlington National Cemetery web site. The photo above shows the Amphitheater, where services and public addresses, such as the one to be held today, are held.

This is a photo from Spring, 2009. I doubt it will look much different today. There are hundreds of photos and tons of information on the Arlington Cemetery web site, including information on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is possibly the most popular and most visited site at Arlington. There are several "unknowns" now, representing wars beginning with WWI through Vietnam. The Tomb of the Unknowns has been constantly guarded by the Army since July 2, 1937.

I was surprised to know that only two presidents are buried at Arlington. One is William Howard Taft, our 27th President (served from 1909-1913 and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1921-1930). The other is probably the most famous. He is John F Kennedy, our 35th president (January 20, 1961 - November 22, 1963). His grave is quite famous because it is marked with an eternal flame.

No matter where you are today, if you live in the U.S., flags will fly high and people will decorate graves. This strictly American holiday was originally called Decoration Day due to the practice of women decorating the graves of loved ones who died in the Civil War. It officially became "Memorial Day" by law in 1967. The name was not without sacrifice, though. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.

It doesn't take much time to visit a local cemetery today. There will be parades, speeches, and flags flying. Show how you honor those

who died for you in the service of their country that you are grateful for their sacrifice. (The final photos are my own.)

However, if you are unable to visit a cemetery, please observe a moment of silence, known as a "National Moment of Remembrance" which is observed at 3 PM local time. Taps are usually played at that time at local cemeteries.

Want to learn more about Memorial Day? Then head on over to US Memorial Day, a web site that has all kinds of information about this day, its history, information on War Memorials, MIA/POW, and various links. It's my blog/web site pick of the day.

And finally, whether today is a bank holiday, a memorial holiday, or another work day, enjoy it and stay safe.

13 thoughtful remarks:

ben... MinnieM... mais toute seule... said...

Je savais que bank holiday voulait dire "jour férié", mais je ne savais pas pourquoi !!!
En france, today is a work day... :-(

have a very nice public holiday !!!

Diane said...

Hope you have a great day, Elizabeth! (I just said to my husband the other day--out of the blue--I want to go to New Orleans to see the cemeteries--what is it about cemeteries?!)

Healing Woman said...

I feel the same about cemeteries. The one that took my breath away was at Omaha Beach in France. There is a sad stillness in that graveyard and as you walk along the beach, you can almost hear the wind whispering to you of the deaths of the many soldiers.

On the lighter side, I appreciated reading about the bank holidays in the UK.
Thanks for posting.

Terri Kahrs said...

Perfect post to honor this special day. Hugs, Terri xoxo

Halle said...

Beautiful post. This Memorial Day carries a much greater weight for me since we interned Dad's ashes at Fort Snelling just one week ago.

Donna: said...

All the flags. All the sacrifice... Freedom Rings!

gobeagirl said...

This is indeed an awesome post. I really enjoyed each and everyone of your pictures. Thank you. I feel the same way about all that have come and gone before us. Honor is the least we can give today. Thanks so much. Hugs, Lisa G

Julia Dunnit said...

Lovely thoughtful post Elizabeth. We have 'Remebrance Day' in November; World War 1 was officially 'finished' by Germany signing the Armistice on the 11th day of the 11th month - and at the the 11th hour. We have two minutes' silence to commemorate the fallen from both wars. These days tho, it tends to be Remembrance Sunday - the nearest Sunday to the 11th. No less important for it though.
This Spring Bank Holiday is the first day off school for many here too as we start a week long term break....a long haul till the summer break up at the 20 something of July. I wonder when I'll top measuring seasons in terms?
There's an award for you over at my blog!

~*~Patty Szymkowicz said...

Really great informative and thoughtful post Elizabeth, wonderful photos too!
I am drawn to cemeteries too!
Both Jim's Dad and mine are buried in Arlington Cemetery, Jim's Mom too actually. We don't go there that often as we feel them with us in so many places!

Anonymous said...

I learned so much from your post, Elizabeth. You are always so informative and accurate on what you write. Glad I stopped by today.


Marlynn said...

Very good post Elizabeth.... You reminded me of the times I took my grandmother to cementaries to decorate the graves of loved ones. I had forgotten, how sad. I have seen a number of "poppys" around which remind me of one of my favorite poems - all my life, "In Flanders Field the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row..." Let us never forget.

Debby said...

Great post Elizabeth. Happy Memorial Day.

Nine said...

Ces photos me font penser au cimetière américain de Colleville sur Mer en Normandie. En France.
Je te mets un petit lien si ça t'intéresse.