Memorial Day is an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, to honor the heroic men and women who died in service to the United States. Originally known as Decoration Day, the holiday was coined in the years following the Civil War, and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Traditionally, Americans celebrate Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, BBQs, and participating in parades. The holiday unofficially marks the beginning of the summer season, with folks heading out of town, going camping, or hosting parties in their backyards with friends and family – though this year’s celebrations for the holiday won’t be the same, as we approach a new normal due to the COVID pandemic.
Although typical gatherings like parades and backyard BBQ’s are now restricted in most states, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to celebrate and recognize the holiday while social distancing at home. Check out these 10 ways to observe Memorial Day while social distancing:
1. Organize a front yard barbecue in your neighborhood. If your Memorial Day weekend celebrations usually consist of hosting pool parties or having BBQs, consider organizing a front yard barbeque with your neighbors this time around. A front yard barbeque allows your neighbors the chance to socialize at a safe distance while also enjoying the beginning of the summer season with family. To make it more exciting, you can play some music or drop off chalk to the children in the neighborhood.
2. Watch the National Memorial Day Concert. Traditionally, the yearly National Memorial Day Concert would happen on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, but this year it will air on live television on Sunday, May 24, at 8 p.m. EST on PBS. Grill some backyard burgers, cool your beer, and stream the concert at home with family.
3. Participate in a local car parade. With many states cancelling their yearly Memorial Day parades, check out your local county or city website to see if they are holding local drive-by parades for the public. It is a great way to pay tribute to those who fought for our nation while also staying safe. Make it a family event by decorating your car with window paint, car flags or other patriotic car accessories.
4. Visit a cemetery or memorial site. If you prefer to pay tribute to our nation’s heroes more intimately, consider visiting a grave site or memorial. In most states, social distancing protocols must be followed when visiting public spaces. Tidy up graves of fallen soldiers and replace the worn flags with new ones to honor their service. If the cemetery allows, you can even plant flowers at graves that look like they have been abandoned.
5. Make donations to a veteran’s organization. Memorial Day is also an important day to remember our nation’s veterans. Consider donating your time or resources to a veteran’s organization. To volunteer safely, for instance, Operation Gratitude lets people write letters and send care packages to thank deployed troops, veterans, injured heroes, and first responders. This can be a fun and inspiring family exercise for children to practice their writing skills while also practicing gratitude.
6. Decorate your yard in red, white, and blue. Just because you can’t have your usual holiday gatherings, doesn’t mean you can’t decorate! Go all out this year by hanging red, white and blue décor around your home to celebrate the holiday. Tie ribbons around your trees to commemorate our nation’s heroes, including our medical heroes during this global pandemic. Put up flags, tie ribbons and make it a family event by using red, white, and blue chalk to draw fun designs on the sidewalks.
7.Go camping. Celebrate the holiday in nature by going camping this year. Many private campgrounds are now open to the public with isolated and spread out camping sites. Many state parks and forests are also open with social distancing protocols in place. Check online or call ahead to your local parks and forests before making any plans.
8.Make your own drive–in theater. If you don’t have a drive-in theater near you, make your own at home! Hang up a bed sheet, get a projector, and some outdoor chairs for a fun movie night in the backyard.
9. Get outdoors. So you don’t go crazy in quarantine, take advantage of this warmer weather by getting some vitamin D! Go on a bike ride, take a hike, kayak, fish, make a picnic and spend the day enjoying what mother nature has to offer. Don’t forget to clean up afterwards though!
10. Set up a video party. Especially missing your friends and family? We understand! Just because you are social distancing does not mean you have to cancel game night. Set up a video party with your friends and family to celebrate virtually, but together. Play fun and interactive games like charades, word games, cards, bingo, and trivia!
Written by Maria Nadiradze, CAI’s Office Manager