Memorial Day 2024… what it’s about and things to do this weekend

When we first visited Fort Snelling National Cemetery I wasn’t prepared for was how moving the experience would be… spending time in the midst of a sea of over 177,000 tombstones… all identical, all white, all aligned in perfect rows from every angle…a visual symbol of how vast is the number of people who have served our country.

Fort Snelling cemetery was established in 1870 to serve as a burial ground for the soldiers who died while stationed at nearby Fort Snelling. Following World War I, the citizens of St. Paul organized a petition to designate a national cemetery in the area and in 1939 Fort Snelling National Cemetery was established. Today it occupies 436 acres next to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.  (MAP)

A simple sign ‘DAD’ next to one of the tombstones was a vivid reminder that although the markers may all look alike, each one identifies a unique individual who played a significant role in someone’s life.

The observance of Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Civil War soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I the remembrance was expanded to include all wars, and in 1968 the national holiday was moved from its traditional May 30th date to the fourth Monday of May to give us the three-day holiday weekend which we are enjoying now.

Although celebrated throughout the country, different communities have their own traditions. I grew up in a rural Norwegian Lutheran community in North Dakota. We always celebrated by decorating the graves of all deceased family members with flowers. It gave a sense of continuity and an understanding of our roots, visiting the graves of ancestors who lived generations before us.

For many years, our small congregation hosted a celebration which began in the cemetery with a veterans rifle guard salute and taps, followed by a ‘Memorial Day Dinner’ which featured homemade salads and hot dishes. But the real draw was homemade lefserommegrot and pies… people would come from miles away for this famous annual feast, sometimes waiting an hour or more for their turn at the bountiful table.

Want to attend a Memorial Day ceremony in the Twin Cities?

Visit Lakewood Cemetery at 3600 Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis for a special Memorial Day ceremony. The ceremony takes place on Monday, May 27 from 10:30am to 11:30am. Following the ceremony, stick around the grounds for music, refreshments, and activities for the whole family including a new Welcome Center, Trolley Tours and a Flower Tent. It’s stunning Byzantine Chapel will be open 12-4, and the grounds will be open from 8 am to 8 pm. Memorial Day events are free and open to the public.

More Memorial Day ceremonies and events in the Twin Cities this weekend

Looking for other things to do over the Memorial Day weekend?

Meet Minneapolis has some great suggestions… 13 Ways to Hang Out in Minneapolis this Memorial Day Weekend

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results –

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I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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