Decoration Day and Remembrance

Today, as we honor and remember those who have served and those who are in service for our nation now, I am reminded of a southern tradition – “Decoration Day,” which for some of our nation preceded the national observance of Memorial Day, begun by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan in 1868.

Decoration Day is thought to have begun during the Civil War, when women went to clean the cemetaries and decorate the tombs with flowers. The tradition includes “dinner on the ground” (not really dinner as we think of in southern California but Sunday’s noon meal and actually not on the ground, either – more like “on the grounds of…”) and Gospel music (what I learned to call Stained Glass Bluegrass when I lived in Virginia) – people made a special day of the activities of remembrance.  Churches in many southern states and throughout Appalachia still celebrate this tradition.

While I usually try to highlight resources we have in our library related to my posts, I’ve
found that the book which probably relates best these activities is available through Link+(and not directly in our collection – at least yet):

Jabbour, Alan and Karen Singer Jabbour. Decoration Day in the Mountains: Traditions of Cemetary Decoration in the Southern Appalachians. Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2010. The Jabbours have a website that includes some marvelous photos. Click here to view them.

NPR had a short feature on this tradition over the weekend and the Library of Congress American Memory program has links related to this and to the beginning of Memorial Day.


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