Wahoooooo a day off work! This is about the extent to which many of us celebrate the holiday Memorial Day. This federal holiday (also known as Decoration Day) is to remember those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. They died for you and me…remind you of someone else?!?

Why We Celebrate Memorial Day

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May every year. It marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season: pools open, smokers get fired up, and lawn chairs are hosed down. Some visit cemeteries and memorials to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place American flags on each grave in national cemeteries.

Oftentimes, Memorial Day is confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving whereas Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

I don’t recall the specifics as to how it began, but for years, my family has celebrated Memorial Day together. Not just my nuclear family, my extended family, too: aunts, uncles, great grandmothers, friends, and co-workers. Everyone is invited.

This has quickly become one of my favorite celebrations of the year. When I think of this holiday, I don’t remember gifts or cleaning the house in preparation. Or the stress of travels plans and worrying about family relations and potential conflicts. I just remember my family, the loving feelings, and the wonderful fellowship. I remember the joy in the mundane: winning at cornhole for my first time ever, trying cowboy caviar, learning that my cousin is switching jobs, and catching up on life.

Getting Ready for the Celebration: Planning the Party 

Memorial Day PicnicSo, what exactly does my family’s celebration look like, and how can your family implement it? First, plan a date—my family always held our party on the Sunday afternoon before Memorial Day. Then, we figure out a location—it is completely flexible. We have moved our celebration to 3-4 different places.

One year, my cousin had just purchased a new house and wanted to show it off, so she hosted our annual Memorial Day party. The key is flexibility. Then, invite friends, family, neighbors, co-workers—everyone! I have seen different people each year! Last year, I saw my great uncle whom I had never met.

Now, the most important topic…food. In my family, girls bring a side or dessert and boys bring beverages. The host supplies the primary meat/casserole/entree. Whatever they want to cook, it is up to them—we have had enchiladas, brisket, beans, chili, tacos, lasagna, and just about anything that is edible.

After covering the logistics, what does the day look like? We start with arrivals; the noise is joyous! People come from near and far, and the greetings are a melodious racket. Hugs, high fives, even some tears take place. After the greetings, we chow down on some snacks and appetizers and spend time together…fellowship.

The kids run frantically. Some play cornhole while some find a basketball to shoot solo or start a game. One year, we had limbo. There is always a cup pong tournament, though. We even invest in official engraved medals for the winners. We draw names out of hats to assign our teammate. Then, we are placed in a bracket. The ‘official’ games start after the meal, which takes place whenever the host fancies, usually in the early evening. The night ebbs and flows in volume; elders leave early while the young ones celebrate deep into the night.

How You Can Celebrate Memorial Day 

I know what you are thinking. What can you do this Memorial Day? Maybe hosting a big celebration is not right for you. There are a lot of local events you can attend to celebrate this important day. Here are a few options.

Texas Pool Memorial Day Party

Memorial Day is opening day at the Historic Texas Pool from 12:00-6:00 p.m. Texas pool members, first responders, Memorial Day Pool Partyveterans, military personnel, and teachers swim free! Everyone else is $1 per person or $5 per family with the entry fee benefitting the Nonprofit Texas Pool Foundation. Honor our fallen heroes, veterans, and active duty service men and women as we celebrate freedom.

Have your picture taken with the #LovePlano Heart. There will be live music, a raffle, contests, games, food, and fun! Snack bar is open, and the grills will be fired up. Bring some extra cash for all the goodies. Monetary donations are encouraged. For more information, check out Texas Pool Memorial Day Party.

Memorial Day at the Arboretum 

Kick off the holiday weekend with a concert by one of Dallas’ best party bands, The Grooves. In honor of our armed forces, the Arboretum will offer free admission into the main garden all four days of Memorial Day weekend for active duty members and veterans of the United States military and first responders with a valid photo ID.

On Memorial Day, the celebration continues with face painting and a petting zoo in the Pecan Grove. Enjoy $2 hot dogs and root beer floats at the Terrace Café and Café of the Green. Check out the details!

Memorial Day at the Waterpark

On Memorial Day weekend, Hawaiian Falls will open its doors by celebrating with military appreciation. All military personnel will get free admission when you show your military ID! Invite your friends, family, and neighbors to enjoy the refreshing, cool waters of Hawaiian Falls. There are pools, rides, and slides for the entire family! Don’t miss out on the fun!

To find a location near you, visit Hawaiian Falls Waterparks.

A Paw-triotic Fun Run

Memorial Day Fun RunRun, walk, and bring Fido to the Unleashed Paws’ Fur Fun Run hosted by the Noble Rey Brewing Company. Benefiting Patriot PAWS Service Dogs, the Memorial Day weekend paw-triotic run and walk is a fantastic event for the entire family and a terrific way to salute service dogs and the veterans they assist. Get paw-triotic! Dress in your very best red, white, and blues so that you and your pup can strut your stuff, too!

Following the run/walk, let your tail wag with an All Ameri-Dog Paw-ty, complete with music, hot dogs, pup pools, pup treats, and more. Meet and learn more about Patriot PAWS, be surrounded by the fellow animal-loving community, and have a howling good time! To sign up for the run, check out Unleashed Paws Fur Fun Run.

Memorial Day at the Farmers Market

On Sunday, May 27, the Downtown Plano Farmers Market will be hosted by Georgia’s Farmers Market from 9:00Farmer's Market a.m.-2:00 p.m. Load up the family, travel to the market, and get ready to be entertained while picking fresh food. You might even hear live music downtown while shopping.

Browse healthy and fun recipes you and your family can enjoy.  Have each family member pick out different types of food, and then, at home, fire up the grill and use the fresh food to make a delicious Memorial Day picnic in the comfort of your backyard or a local pool. Invite friends or neighbors to come over and enjoy the evening!

To find out more information about the local farmers market, check out Memorial Day Farmers Market.

Why We Should Celebrate

We should celebrate Memorial Day to remember and honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. But we should also celebrate to connect with our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Celebrate the now. Open your eyes and your heart to the possibility of joy. Jesus was all about celebration.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God
. -1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV