Edibles & Potables: A Memorial Day observance, 2023

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”
— Elie Wiesel
The following essay first appeared at Food & Dining Magazine in 2021.

Today I propose to play against type, leave the food and drink until later, and consider the institution of Memorial Day in America.

After all, such a tradition must begin somewhere, and quite possibly, this one may date directly to May in 1865, when “free blacks in Charleston (SC) reburied dead Union prisoners of war and held a cemetery dedication ceremony.” A more formal starting point came shortly thereafter.

May 30, 1868: Civil War dead honored on Decoration Day (History)

By proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, the first major Memorial Day observance is held to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Known to some as “Decoration Day,” mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more...Read more