The Complicated Stigma of Saying “Happy Memorial Day Weekend”
To a lot people in the U.S., Memorial Day Weekend is a three-day holiday weekend spent with family and friends having some good food, perhaps a beer or ten and some fun. At the very least, it usually marks the unofficial arrival of summer.
As far as a typical "celebratory" holiday goes, however, it's a bit more complex than that.
Memorial Day dates back to the 1800's, when it was originally called "Decoration Day." Decoration Day was dedicated to decorating the graves of fallen soldiers - a pretty somber and impactful day - hardly a "celebration."
As the weekend has evolved and been commercialized like everything else over the last 150+ years, it's become a bit more about summer fun and barbecues in popular culture than about honoring our fallen heroes. And most people aren't too proficient at spreading the word of the true meaning of the holiday.
In fact, Memorial Day is often confused with Veteran's Day. Veteran's Day is for honoring all of our service men and women - past or present - while Memorial Day is specifically for honoring those who died for our country.
Which brings me to the point. This is all relevant because of the numerous people who use the phrase "Happy Memorial Day" or "have a great Memorial Day weekend!" to friends, co-workers, customers and more, in advance of or over the weekend. While the intent is almost always innocent and pure, please allow this to serve as a reminder to stop and consider your audience before carefully choosing your words.
Some people take offense to phrasing it this way, or feel it's disrespectful toward loved ones they may have lost. Even if intended innocently enough - which I'd argue nearly a full 100% of the time it's just that the person saying it doesn't quite realize how it's coming out - you should always strive not to paint it as a "celebration" sort of holiday, just in case.
The Code of Support Foundation - an organization that provides support for veterans and their families - lays it out best by saying: "For many families who have lost loved ones, it’s not a happy day, and it’s not a day intended to be celebrated in the traditional sense of that word. If you’re thinking to yourself “I have said this, but it wasn’t my intent to be disrespectful”, then we encourage you to please take a moment to learn why the holiday exists and how you might recognize it."
And that's precisely why I'm providing you this link to more information from them on what to say, why and how to say it.
Cheers to a long weekend, no doubt, but definitely stop for a minute at some point and say thanks - even if just silently - to those who gave their life for their country to have weekends like this in the first place.