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Memorial Day Traditions

happy memorial dayHappy Memorial Day to my US readers. Happy Monday to everyone else. It’s funny how Memorial Day means different things to different people. I think we all agree that this holiday was meant as a remembrance of those who have given their lives to defend our country, but in the South where I grew up, Memorial Day was a time when you also visit the cemetery to put new flowers and trinkets by the tombstones of loved ones who have passed on. Memorial Day traditions are very different in different places.

I used to love Memorial Day as a kid because cemeteries are great places to explore and learn history. It wasn’t really a sad time at all. I can remember catching caterpillars and putting them in a jar. I’m not sure why graveyards are prime places for them, but it was caterpillar central.

In Kentucky, your wedding and your death were the two big occasions to plan for. Funerals and all the rituals that go with them are huge and often social events. I can remember getting to the funeral home early to get good seats for some of the more prominent community members.

My Mom bought grave plots years ago and already has instructions for her funeral written out. When I was a kid, there was almost never a two week span that went by without visiting the funeral home. Even if you only knew a fried of a friend, it would have been seen as rude not to at least go to visitation or take food to the grieving family.

In the west, death is not such an event. I think I’ve been to two funerals in almost 15 years. Many people don’t have a funeral at all. I’ve even know people with terminal illnesses who have had celebration of life gatherings while they are still around. I love it. I’ve always thought open casket services were awful. No one looks good dead. I don’t care how much make up or hairspray the mortician uses. I would much rather remember people in life rather than have that last image of someone in a casket, but then again, I never did quite fit in in the south.

Enough talk of death and dying. I hope everyone celebrates Memorial Day how they want today. I am in Kentucky with family, and might even be at the graveyard. When in Rome, I guess.

Happy Memorial Day!

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/Howden

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. It’s interesting how traditions may vary from one place to another. I grew up in the midwest and there was not so much the focus on funerals and memorials. For us Memorial Day is always a day to gather with friends and family, often outdoors since Memorial Day is usually when things start warming up in the upper midwest at least. Anyway, have a good holiday!

  2. My husband and I don’t plan to have funerals. Such an unnecessary expense and a emotional ordeal for the family to endure. Too often the funeral is more of a social occasion than a solemn ritual. I don’t like that so am not going to encourage it by having one of my own.

  3. I am with you on the open casket thing. We lost my hubby’s brother 11 years ago on Memorial Day weekend and it definitely forced us to have the conversation about what we wanted when we go. I definitely want a memorial service that is a party and I only want a pictures of me from my 20s that I love. I want people to remember me that way, because if I had to pick an image of myself in heaven, that is what it would be.

    • That is a very good point. I actually have it in my will that I want to be cremated and where I want my ashes scattered. It’s really hard for those left behind to have to make those choices.

  4. That’s interesting to hear the difference. Growing up, I never really had to go to anyone’s funeral. In fact I don’t think I went to one until I was in college. I also agree about not having an open casket. I don’t want people to remember me that way at all. As morbid as it is, that’s why it’s best to have your plans in writing so that you do get exactly what you want after you die. Ok, now I’m depressed. lol!

    • I went to so many funerals growing up that they really don’t phase me that much. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

  5. Funerals are always a bit creepy, but a necessary part of the grieving process. There was a story in today’s news about someone who was sat up a her favorite rocking chair for the wake. Now that would really be creepy.

  6. I hope you had a good holiday weekend =)

    I agree that open caskets are creepy. But, that’s just the norm around here (Indiana). That is many people’s last chance to say goodbye and is still traditional.

    I personally want to be cremated, although that’s creepy as well. I’ve seen people cremated before and it’s not what you think it would be.

    • I guess when you’re gone, you could probably care less. I want to be cremated also. I don’t like people making a fuss over me in life. I can’t imagine I’d like it any better in death.

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