March 13, 2013 - Decoration Day in Liberia

In addition to being called “Decoration Day,” today's holiday in the African nation of Liberia is also called “Memorial Day.” This gives you a good hint of just what Liberians will be decorating:

            Graves of loved ones.

Today many people will go to the cemetery to clean, repaint, and decorate the graves of their family members. It is a time to say thank you to those who have come before for their contributions and sacrifices. Some will even sing and pour “libations” (alcoholic beverages) onto the graves.

Do you see any similarities between
the Liberian flag and the U.S. flag?
Liberia has a unique history. While most nations in Africa were colonized by European countries, Liberia was settled by freed slaves from the United States and never had a colonial master. These freed slaves had ties to the U.S., spoke English, and considered themselves Christians, and the culture they set up in Africa had many features in common with the American south that was the only life they had known. The official language of the nation remains English, and more than 85% of the population are Christian. The nation's capital, Monrovia, was named after James Monroe, the fifth U.S. president, and the government structure was patterned after the United States government.

Leymah Gbowee was an
influential leader in creating the
peace talks that finally ended
the civil wars that had torn
apart Liberia.
However, in 1980 a military coup overthrew the Americo-Liberian leadership, and twelve years of civil war devastated the country economically. Peace was declared again in 2003, and democratic elections began to be held again in 2005, but the enormous amount of poverty is a reminder of those harsh years.

(About 85% of the population live below the international poverty line.)

To learn more about Liberia...

  • Read a Liberian folk tale. There are also links to recipes, clip art, and a lesson about Liberia. 

  • Check out Philip Martin's text-map about living in Liberia.

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