Memorial Day––our unofficial start to summer in the United States––is but a week away. Greater than its role of ushering in summer, however, is its status as a day of remembrance, particularly of those who died in service to their country. It is a holiday with a long history, dating back to the Civil War. The 30th of May was chosen as the date of Memorial Day for it was believed that flowers would be in bloom at that time in all corners of the country. Flowers for remembrance.
Go back centuries more and you will find a similar sentiment for this same time of year in Ancient Rome. May was the time of the Floralia, an annual festival honoring the goddess Flora, goddess of flowers and plants. It was, as well, a time of remembering the dead, particularly for the Roman military. And today, the 23rd of May, brought the Rosalia, a day of similar devotion and remembrance, but with a focus on roses. Graves, especially, would be decorated today with roses. Roses for remembrance.
And so today we’d do well to gather rosebuds and to decorate with them, homes and graves. It is a day for both the living and the dead.
Image: “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May” by John William Waterhouse. Oil on canvas, 1909 [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.