May 31, 2010

Memorial Day – United States
Castille-La Mancha Day – Spain

Memorial Day in the U.S. is a day to honor men and women who have died in the military services. It got its start immediately after the Civil War in 1865. In Charleston, South Carolina, there was a race course that had been used by the Confederate army to keep captured Union soldiers and also as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died there. As soon as the war was over, a group of formerly enslaved people took it upon themselves to dig up the Union soldiers' bodies from the mass grave and to rebury them in more dignified individual graves with markers. It was hard work, and undoubtedly disgusting, but they got the task done in just 10 days—including building a fence around the new Union graveyard. On May 1, 1865, about ten thousand people (mostly black residents) came to the graveyard to listen to sermons and to sing together, honoring the fallen soldiers.

I like this story partly because people didn't just sit around saying, “Somebody ought to... Somebody really should...” Instead, these people just did it!

Other early and local Memorial Day or Decoration Day observances
eventually led to Congress recognizing the day as a legal holiday, and after World War I the category of honorees was broadened to include all who die in the military services.

Castille-La Mancha Day in Spain is a regional holiday. I mentioned in an earlier post that Spain is largely divided into semi-autonomous regions, and this is one of them. The largest city in this region is Toledo, but the area is probably best known as the setting for the famous novel Don Quixote. According to Wikipedia, the area is also known for its sunflowers, oliveyards, and windmills.

The people of Castille-La Mancha celebrate the day with sporting events, art shows, musical performances, local movie showings, taste-testing and wine-tasting, and presentations about local scientists. Very cool!

Celebrate the Day's Holidays!

  • Here is a jigsaw puzzle of a Memorial poppy postage stamp, and here is a puzzle featuring a more traditional Memorial Day scene.
  • Do you want to try a new game? A teacher named Carlos Velazquez, of Spain, has gathered together many “street games” that kids play in Spain.
  • Here is a simplified version of the story of Don Quixote.
  • Many towns and cities have a local memorial (or two) that is dedicated to those who gave up their life doing military service. Can you find out if yours does? Visit it today.
  • Here is a photo tour through La Mancha, with a short video introduction.
  • There is an extensive amount of stuff on the web about war and peace and memorials. Here is one website that gathers together some of those resources.

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