What does Memorial Day mean? Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for all of the fallen men and women who fought for our country while serving in the US military. There is evidence that back in the 1800’s, women in the south were putting flowers on the graves of the soldiers before the end of the Civil War (a war which claimed more lives than any other war in US history). Then General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army, marked May 5th 1868 as Memorial Day—where loved ones could visit Arlington cemetery.
In 1873, New York was the first state to officially recognize May 5th as being Memorial Day, followed by all of the other northern states. On the first recognized day, there were 5,000 people who decorated over 20,000 graves at Arlington cemetery as General James Garfield gave a speech. After World War I, this date was not only recognized for Civil War soldiers, but all of the soldiers who fought for our country. By 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, NY the birthplace of this holiday. However, it has been difficult to actually prove the origin since many states honored the fallen during this time. Waterloo celebrated with parades, speeches, and decorating graves with flowers and flags. By 1971, the National holiday act declared the last Monday of May to be Memorial Day. That way, federal employees could have a 3 day weekend.
Memorial Day Weekend is a time where families, friends, neighbors and even strangers take this day to put all other things aside to honor people who gave up their lives to protect our freedom. There are some traditional celebrations that have been going on throughout the country since the 1950’s. Every year on the Thursday before Memorial day, 1,200 hundred soldiers from the 3rd Infantry place flags on the now over 260,000 gravestones at Arlington, and stand watch 24 hours a day during the weekend to make sure each flag stays standing. However, have some of the Memorial Day traditions changed over the years? What does it mean to Americans now?
Today, with few remembrances that still go on (such as parades, moments of silence, and families who visits grave sites) many people associate this 3-day weekend as an extra day off from work; all federal buildings and banks are closed, as well as smaller businesses. This weekend usually marks the beginning of summer and is celebrated with cookouts and festivals. Retail stores do not close and advertise huge 3-day sales in brightly colored red, white and blue flyers. Big ads will say, “Come in and buy a big flat screen TV, computer, or brand new car at huge discounted prices for 3 days only!” Grocery stores have shelves lined with hotdog and hamburger buns next to the mustard and ketchup, boxes of frozen hamburgers and packages of hotdogs are stocked in bulk. Cakes, cupcakes, and cookies are decorated with the American flag in sugary frosting, there are “buy one get one free” coupons for chips and dip,s and potato and macaroni salads are being sold by the gallon. Liquor stores display wine, beer and liquors on red, white and blue cardboard stands, on sale for outdoor gatherings. Covers are taken off grills, summer patio furniture is dug out from behind the snow blower. Shovels are put in the shed, pools covers are rolled up and tucked away and yards are being raked and cleaned. Winter jackets, hats, boots, and gloves are put in closets and are replaced with shorts, t-shirts, bathing suits and flip flops. This year Memorial Day lands on May 26th, and people will be rushing around the stores getting ready for family cookouts.
So, while the hot dogs and hamburgers are smoking and sizzling on the grill, beers and sodas are on ice in the cooler and chips and dips are in bowls on patio tables, what is a vegan to do? Here we are again faced with another holiday with few options at family gathering for vegans. However, there are hundreds of great, simple dishes that you can make that everyone can enjoy. For example, this delicious vegan potato salad transforms the traditional salad made with mayonnaise into a delicious healthy version that is sure to be a hit!
Creamy Potato Salad
serves about 4
1 – 2 lbs small Yukon gold potatoes (mixed it up with some color and use purple finglings)
1 to 1 ½ ripe avocado
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp diced red onion
2 stalks of celery diced
1 shredded carrot
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped or other herbs (parsley, tarragon, chives)
½ cup diced cucumber
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Sprinkle of nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika for the top
-Wash the potatoes well and chop into 1-inch cubes. Cover the potatoes with water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium heat cooking until they are folk tender for about 10 minutes. (Be careful not to overcook!)
-While the potatoes are cooking, combine the avocado, Dijon mustard, celery, carrot, red onion, cucumber, dill and other herbs, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and salt in a medium bowl, and mash well with a fork. Then add in the potatoes. Cover and keep chilled.
This recipe serves about 4 but, if you have a larger family gathering simply double the ingredients.
However you do decide to celebrate this holiday, lets not forget all of our soldiers in the military who have passed away, who are still on active duty, retired, in the Reserves, or have spent some time in the military of every branch in every corner of our nation. Take a moment of silence to remember that they have fought and will continue to fight for our country and take a moment to thank them when you see them.