Believe it or not, Memorial Day was not invented so you could get 60% off select queen mattress sets
Of all the things advertising can be despised for–and there are many–perhaps the worst is its custom of taking monuments to the noblest achievements of humanity and reducing them to a starburst at the top of a bill-stuffer. Days we set aside to honor courage, righteousness and statesmanship are systematically drained of their meaning to sell a few more station wagons and washing machines (“Oh, and by the way, ma’am, have a good time at the barbecue after you finish your shopping!”)
On Memorial Day weekend, I make it a point to revisit an extraordinary column by Mark Steyn that originally appeared in the Chicago Sun Times in 2004. He explains that the holiday wasn’t always called Memorial Day:
“Before the First World War, it was called Decoration Day – a day for going to the cemetery and ‘strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.’ Some decorated the resting places of fallen family members; others adopted for a day the graves of those who died too young to leave any descendants.”
He follows this with a heartbreaking story that lies beneath three of the headstones in the cemetery of his New Hampshire town.
This weekend take a few minutes away from grilling hot dogs and perusing the free-standing-inserts in your newspaper to read Steyn’s piece. You will remember it the next time someone asks you to do a Memorial Day ad.