Learning Ahead: Memorial Day
Memorial Day: Gathering Together & Honoring The Past
Memorial Day honors those veterans who died serving our country in the armed forces. Many of the ceremonies take place in outdoor, common spaces, such as Main Streets, town commons, and downtown sidewalks. Community members gather together, in the spirit of kindness and compassion, to show gratitude for those who dedicated their lives to serving our democracy. During these parades and outdoor ceremonies, folks bring bouquets of flowers, fresh baked bread, and other small tokens of kindness to share with veterans still living, in appreciation for their service, and that of their fellow soldiers who lost their lives.
Memorial Day parades are an opportunity for place-making and intergenerational dialogue. Community members of all ages come out for the day’s ceremony and parade, while many of the activities take place in the gathering spaces of a town. It provides a space for neighbors, families, and friends to spend time together in a communal place. Many Western Massachusetts’ towns ask their historical societies to organize events around Memorial Day to help us learn about local history and about those who served our country in the distant past. It is a day of remembrance from both a contemporary perspective and a historical perspective. In the past, the following towns have hosted Memorial Day parades: Amherst, Agawam, Athol, Chicopee, Easthampton, Florence, Great Barrington, Greenfield, Hadley, Holyoke, Housatonic, Plainfield, Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Westfield and Williamsburg, among other towns in the region.
Each parade and event may include local school marching bands, community picnics, community dinners, bike rides, gun salutes, and guest speakers. Memorial Day parades connect communities to their local history and past while celebrating, and being grateful for, the chance to spend time together in town.
Poetry Explorations: Walt Whitman’s “Ashes of Soldiers“
Walt Whitman’s “Ashes of Soldiers” is a poem written to honor the soldiers who lost their lives during the civil war. In this poem, Whitman writes to remind the reader of all the soldiers whose names are lost in history but who should be remembered for their dedication and service. On Memorial Day, consider reading Whitman’s poem in honor of all soldiers from decades past and their significant contributions to our nation’s identity and democracy.
[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]
Download our May/June edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.