Learning Ahead: Memorial Day

Memorial Day: Gathering Together & Honoring The Past

For some, Memorial Day is a deeply personal holiday, a day for remembering those who have served the people of our country. Participating in these Memorial Day celebrations and ceremonies can also be a form of placemaking, strengthening ties to community spaces and encouraging social interaction between generations. These events also offer a chance to personally thank local veterans and recognize them for their bravery and service.

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.




2 Comments on “Learning Ahead: Memorial Day

  1. Thank you for asking, Tracy! There are services being held in the hilltowns. Check with your local town to see what they are hosting. One example:

    WILLIAMSBURG: Monday, May 29, 2017. 1pm. The Williamsburg Memorial Day parade begins at the Williamsburg Fire Station and marches to the Veteran’s Memorial Park. Williamsburg, MA (FREE)

    Also check our list of Weekly Suggested Events and our Suggest an Event bulletin board for other events happening around the region.

  2. Is Hilltown having an official Memorial Day Service?

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