7 Special Traditions to Honor Heroes with Your Kids on Memorial Day Weekend
Many Americans celebrate Memorial Day as an unofficial kickoff to summer, but the reason for the holiday is much more significant. Celebrated as a federal holiday since 1971 and formerly called “Decoration Day,” it’s a time a to pay respect to military men and women who have given their lives in service.
As you enjoy time with family at a barbecue or on a weekend trip, consider introducing traditions that will give the holiday even more meaning. Here are 7 ideas for honoring heroes with your kids this Memorial Day weekend.
Spend a quiet moment together
Every year at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day — always the last Monday in May — the public is encouraged to observe a National Moment of Remembrance. Consider setting a reminder for your family to gather just before the top of the hour, and then make a point of standing or sitting silently together. You can also create your own tradition, whether it’s lighting a candle or taking turns saying a few words of thanks for those who have given their lives for their country.
Take part in a parade
Plan on attending your local hometown celebration, whether by cheering on the veterans and families along the parade route or by volunteering to assist with the planning and organizing. Or make a day or weekend of it by traveling to the nearest city or town that’s known for throwing a parade —Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston are each good bets.
Send a note of thanks
If you know an active or retired member of the military — or a military family who has lost someone in service — this is an ideal time to reach out with some words of gratitude. Sit down with your children and compose a note together.
If you can hand-deliver it as a family and spend some time with the recipients, you may simultaneously brighten someone’s day, create a meaningful memory for your children, and start a new tradition. Alternatively, you can send letters, cards and care packages to U.S. troops via a nonprofit organization, such as Support Our Troops.
Pay your respects
Memorial Day is an appropriate occasion to pay a visit to a veterans’ cemetery, monument or memorial — you can bring small flags or flowers to leave at the markers. Some sites might be hosting special events for Memorial Day, so check local listings. Such a visit can open up an opportunity for your children to develop a sense of empathy for the families of fallen service members. Of course, it’s up to you to determine whether such a visit is appropriate for your child.
Read, watch and learn
Your local library, bookstore, classic movie theater and even your own living room can provide a gateway to literature, film and shows addressing wars fought, lives lost and sacrifices made. Take some time to choose age-appropriate books, movies, documentaries or shows that you can watch together as a family on Memorial Day and discuss. Whether it’s a documentary series, a gripping piece of cinema or a compelling story read aloud in the family room, engaging with works of art on the subject can leave a lasting impression.
Creating art together and using the process to spark conversations about its source material can strengthen critical thinking skills in young children, as well as help them make connections between their thoughts and emotions. You could construct an American flag from felt pieces and explain how to fold it properly, or even just print a free Medal of Honor coloring book and talk through its contents together as you decorate its pages.
Brighten someone’s day
Many cities and town across the country have a VA hospital where active and retired members of the military go for medical treatment. On Memorial Day, consider paying a visit to deliver baked goods, flowers, cards or other gifts to the patients, many of whom have fought in wars themselves and lost friends and colleagues over the years.
If your hometown doesn’t have a VA hospital, you can connect with a national nonprofit organization that arranges deliveries of care packages. Bringing comfort to surviving veterans is one of the most powerful ways to honor those who are no longer with us while showing gratitude to those who are — forging bonds among family and community in the process.
Holiday Inn salutes all our heroes past and present and thanks them for their sacrifice. We wish you and yours a safe and meaningful Memorial Day weekend spent with those you cherish.