From its origins during the Civil War as Decoration Day, to becoming an official federal holiday in 1971, Memorial Day is when we formally pay tribute to the countless soldiers who have died for our nation while serving in the U.S. military. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. In this Memorial Day Workshop, kids will learn about the history of Memorial Day, and how the day is marked. Museum Educator Lola Chen will discuss Memorial Day traditions, from parades to red paper poppies, visiting cemeteries, laying wreaths, and how we can remember the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers. The workshop project is creating a picture luminary. Children will help prepare their snack.
Suggested for ages 6 – 12. Wilton Historical Society Members $10 per child, maximum $25 per family; Non-members $15 per child, maximum $35 per family. Please register: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-762-7257.
Did You Know?
Did you know why red poppies are a symbol for Memorial Day?
The story of the red poppies is intertwined with the story of the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” . . . .
In Flanders Fields is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. In Flanders Fields was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.
It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world’s most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. . . . The poem also has wide exposure in the United States, where it is associated with Memorial Day.
The first chapter of In Flanders Fields and Other Poems, a 1919 collection of McCrae’s works, gives the text of the poem as follows:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.