Saturday, May 16, 2015

Southern Tradition: Decoration Day #FreeFunnyStory

Some say that Memorial Day was actually born in the South when a group of Southern ladies decided to decorate the graves of soldiers fallen during the Civil War. At that time, it was known by the name, Decoration Day, which was a name commonly applied to the day chosen at rural churchyard for the cleaning and decorating of graves in the church cemetery.

This event began in the 1800's and usually the church chose a Sunday in May or early June for their Decoration Day. During that era, the month of May was usually chosen because flowers were in bloom and could be cut to decorate the graves. Also the weather was mild and the spring planting was finished. The long hot days of work in the fields had yet to arrive.

Traditionally, Decoration Day involved more than just decorating the graves of loved ones. The event included a church service followed by dinner on the ground (picnic) and sometimes a singing. Attendance brought about reunions of families who had loved ones buried in the cemetery. They all came dressed in their Sunday best, walked along the cemetery paths to admire the flowers on graves of their ancestors, and enjoyed the home-made dishes served buffet style on wooden tables. 

My family went to Decoration Day at a country church in Tennessee where my great-grandparents and grandparents were buried, along with many other family members. One my earliest memories, believe or not, is one of the outhouses behind the church, which had been built in mid-1800's. I had never seen an outhouse or used one. I don't remember ever seeing a real outhouse anywhere else. The outhouses and the old church are gone now, replaced by a new church. And the tables are gone, too. Once, they made tables for dinner on the ground by nailing a piece of wood vertical on two tree trunks, and then laid planks horizontal on top the vertical supports to make a table. 

Although Decoration Day is no longer the social event it was a hundred years ago, it still observed as a day to bring flowers to the cemetery and remember your loved ones. 

If you'd like to learn more about the tradition of Decoration Day, check out the book by folklorist, Alan Jabbour. Published by the University of North Carolina Press

And be sure to grab a FREE copy of my humorous short story, "Decoration Day" this weekend on Amazon. You'll love Melanie Sue and Annie Lou!


Veronica Scott said...

Nice post! My brother decorates our Mother's grave yearly on this day.

Patricia Preston said...

Veronica: Thanks for stopping by! It is a nice remembrance for loved ones.