Memorial Day 2020-style may look much different from previous years. Perhaps a little more about gratitude and a little less about those Memorial Day sales.
Like too many holidays, Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, began with the truest of intentions and then warped into something else.
Immediately after the American Civil War ended, people began to honor those who had lost their lives during the conflict, and by 1868, an official Decoration Day was held on May 30, a date selected because it didn’t have any specific meaning, not falling on a battle anniversary, for instance. After WWI, the meaning of the remembrance was enlarged to commemorate American members of the military who had died in any of our wars.
In 1969, however, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved the day to the last Monday of May so that federal employees could have a long (paid) weekend.
Today, Memorial Day is mostly a lot of noise—ads, sales, specials—and kicking off summer—picnics, boating—with less about honoring those who sacrificed, and who continue to sacrifice, for our country.
But in this pandemic, with our essential workers and health care personnel also taking risks every time they step onto their job sites, maybe we’ll be more mindful of what it means to sacrifice. A bit better about saying thank you. Of doing what we can to brighten someone’s day.
And that need not be much. A little note, some flowers or baked goods left at the door, a phone call.
My husband and I sent a dear friend a TeaHaus Stimulus Package—tea samples, tasting notes, tea trivia playing cards, handmade marshmallows among the items—and received this poem in return:
Thanks to your wonderful gift package
Of special information and snackage,
We are all having a ball!
Loving it all!!! Loving it all!!!
Made the marshmallows into “S’mores,”
And over the Tea Book everyone pores.
Now we drink down each tea (every bit!)
And from the Tea Book know all about it.
With the T(ea) cards I play solitaire
With an especially T(ea)-rrific flair.
First time they gave me the first easy win
In a solitaire game that usually does me in.
Thank you, thank you, and thank you again.
We think of you often and now always when
We sample a treat from this clever box.
As a symbol of friendship it really talks!!!
~ Dorothy Lenz
We were as delighted with her thank-you poem as she was about receiving the package! And Dorothy hits it spot on: “As a symbol of friendship it really talks,” “it” referring to both package and poem.
Our actions remind others that we’re friends, or we’re concerned, or we’re thankful. And our appreciation rightfully extends to those we don’t know—the person who delivers our packages; grocery store employees; health care workers, including all those in supporting roles, often unseen; military personnel and veterans.
Expressing thanks and being grateful are closely related:
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. . . . In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. . . .
Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. (Harvard Health)
The simple act of being grateful brings myriad rewards to both giver and recipient. And in this time of unusual stress and anxiety, anything that helps us “feel more positive emotions” and “deal with adversity” is critical.
This being a tea blog, after all, I’ve earlier highlighted research that shows that having a cup of tea also helps us cope with stress (see post, Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, a Look at Tea and Stress). But beyond that, apart from the merits of the ingesting the tea itself, it’s easy to see how the ritual of having tea—thoughtfully brewing, mindfully sipping—might bring us to an attitude of gratefulness.
And in that mindset, maybe we can consider how we can express our gratitude to those around us, perhaps simply thanking them for being who they are. Today on Memorial Day, and tomorrow, and the next day.
–Editors, History.com, “Memorial Day,” History, A&E Television Networks, 5/18/2020.
–Harvard Health, “Giving thanks can make you happier,” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, accessed 5/25/2020.