The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

You can help by leaving comments on posts and by becoming a follower. I'd really like to know who you are and what your thoughts are on what I'm doing. To date, more than a quarter million people have viewed the blog and that's great. But every great leader needs followers and if I am ever to achieve my goal of becoming the next great leader of the Italian culinary world :-) I need followers!

Grazie mille!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day -- A Day of Remembrance, Not a Day to "Celebrate"

This post comes under the "whatever else pops into my head" category since it has nothing to do with food, travel, or entertainment. Or does it?

Memorial Day, as it is "celebrated" in the United States today is all about food, travel, and entertainment. And sales. Don't forget the sales.

It's the "unofficial beginning of summer." Most people are off work and they head to the beach or the mountains or the backyard for a long weekend of grilling and eating and drinking and partying. That, to them, is the reason Memorial Day exists. "Happy Memorial Day," I heard some dope on the radio proclaim.


Look up the word "memorial." My dictionary says,"Something designed to preserve the memory of a person, event, etc." Nowhere does the definition include the words "party" or "sale." Memorial Day is not a "happy" occasion and it is not to be "celebrated." It is, rather an event to be reflected upon and observed. It is not all about the beginning of summer, unofficial or otherwise, and it is most certainly not a time for merchants to exploit as still another excuse for a "sale."

Originally called "Decoration Day," -- from the practice of decorating the graves of the war dead with flowers and flags -- the day is intended to honor and commemorate US soldiers who died in military service. Think about that before "Happy Memorial Day" next passes your lips. Originally conceived to honor the Union dead from the Civil War, it was first observed on May 30, 1868 -- a date chosen specifically because it was not the anniversary of any battle or conflict -- following a proclamation issued on May 5 of that year by Gen. John A. Logan, acting in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of a veteran's organization called the Grand Army of the Republic, in which he stated that Decoration Day should be observed nationwide.

Although considered a "Yankee" holiday at its inception, the South followed suit and created a day to commemorate its dead. That day was frequently June 3, Confederate President Jefferson Davis' birthday. But time healed the rift and by the close of World War I, Decoration Day or Memorial Day was observed with equanimity across the nation, honoring the dead from all wars.

My grandmother still referred to the day as "Decoration Day" in the 1960s, but the term "Memorial Day" was first applied in the 1880s and came into common use following World War II.

Still observed with patriotic parades and speeches when I was growing up in the '50s and early '60s, the transmogrifying of Memorial Day from a day of quiet and respectful reflection to one of riotous partying and crass commercialism began in earnest when the day was included in 1968's Uniform Holidays Bill, enacted into law in 1971. The measure was designed by some idiot to do nothing more than create convenient three-day weekends to appease the masses. Thus Memorial Day was stripped of its original date of observance to become a "Monday Holiday."

Several groups, including the VFW, advocate returning Memorial Day to its traditional date. In its 2002 Memorial Day Address the VFW stated that "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day." I wholeheartedly agree. Check out the site at where you'll find more information about a movement to restore Memorial Day to its proper status.
Inasmuch as there is a lot being said about keeping "Christ" in "Christmas," should there not be equal energy expended to keeping the "Memory" in "Memorial Day?"

If there must be a "beginning of summer" ritual, all well and good. Party, get drunk, overeat, and spend egregious sums of money if you so desire. But let's name it accordingly. We've managed to transform the Easter vacation of my youth into "Spring Break" and other PC euphemisms, so let's call the last weekend of May "Summer Saturnalia" or something and leave Memorial Day out of the whole wretched excess to be observed as it was originally intended.

Excuse me, but I have to swing by the cemetery on my way to the big party at the beach and tell my uncle who died in World War I military service about the latest sale we're having in his honor.

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