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The unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day is something more than soaking in the sun and inhaling the savory scent of the backyard barbecue. This three-day, long-weekend holiday originated in the 1860s and was made to honor the fallen soldiers during the Civil War. Families gather together in paying tribute to their Veteran ancestors, while soldiers commemorate the lives of their comrades who have died in battle.

Each year, a National Moment of Remembrance is held at 3:00 PM. During this hour, people take a pause and say a prayer for those who gave their lives for the country’s freedom. This is one of the many things you can do this Memorial Day. If you want to immerse yourself into the perfect Memorial Day experience, here are five more ways you can celebrate this holiday:

 

#1: Join the National Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day

If you’re living somewhere near DC (or you’re ready to head out on a long drive), seeing the National Memorial Day Parade with your family will make this day more meaningful. This parade is held yearly along Constitution Avenue and depicts stories of honor and sacrifice from all across the generations. Hundreds of spectators gather along the National Mall to pay tribute to those who are, and who were, in service. This moving timeline of the country’s military history is something you and your kids should experience at least once in a lifetime.

Tip: if you can’t make it to DC, there are other cities that offer their own Memorial Day Parades.

 

#2: Offer flowers to a Veteran’s grave

Since the 1860s, people from many parts of the US offer flowers to the graves of the fallen soldiers. This tradition is alive even until now. Pay tribute to the hero in your family by decorating their grave with flags and flowers. Alternatively, you can sponsor a veteran’s grave by sending them a bouquet through the Memorial Day Foundation.

 

#3: Visit a military attraction

Memorial Day

This is the perfect time to learn – or teach – about patriotism, and what better way to do that than visiting a military museum nearby? Use this time to learn more about your history and re-establish a sense of pride and honor as you read the names of those who have dedicated, and selflessly gave up their lives in service.

Tip: some museums, like the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, offers free tickets. Some venues offer discounts to veterans and soldiers in active duty.

 

#4: Party in Red, White and Blue

Memorial Day

Bring your family together and host a party! Decorate the house in national colors and put up a flag by the doorway. Watch a Memorial Day themed movie, then perhaps enjoy a bottle from the Purple Heart Wine, a company founded by a Vietnam veteran, whose main cause is to help raise awareness for the lives of the former soldiers.

 

#5: Send your heartwarming messages

Know a soldier’s family? Reach out and send them a token of appreciation and encouragement with a card. A personalized postcard would most likely bring them smiles; after all, seeing your faces as they read your regards is nothing less than heartwarming. Pair it up with a bundle of gift, if you may, and let them know how they too, are heroes, in allowing their father – or mother – to serve the country without holding back.