Since I was a little girl I remember every second Saturday in August as Decoration Day. Decoration Day is an annual event held in rural cemeteries especially in North Alabama, I am not sure how prevalent they are in other areas of the country, but from my research it does not seem that they are common. My grandfather, great-grandparents, and some of my great-great-grandparents as well as numerous aunts, uncles and cousins are buried in Sandlin Cemetery in Northwestern Limestone County.
Decoration Day is not just a day to put pretty flowers on the headstones, but has become more of a social event in recent years. Decoration day years ago was more of a maintenance day, but now the grass at the cemetery is usually cut a day or two before the decoration day and old flowers removed. Decoration days are typically held between March and September when the weather is warm. At Sandlin there used to be a meal served, typically consisting of goat stew, but they no longer eat, but it doesn’t stop people from walking around and visiting with friends, neighbors and relatives.
New flowers are affixed to headstones. My grandmother and her daughter make their own arrangements each year a few days prior to the event. She fixes flowers for several relatives graves on both her side of the family as well as my late grandfather’s family. We go to the cemetery, fix the flowers and talk to others there doing the same. Although they no longer cook at Sandlin, we still go to Nana’s house and have goat stew just like they used to do.
Decoration day is always a good day for me to learn. Each year I am reminded of my relatives and it helps me to remember our family ancestry as well as the connections to other members of the community. My dad says he always remembers going to decoration days growing up, however my mom who grew up on the east side of the county had never heard of it until she married my dad. Decoration days are not widely practiced, but there are several rural cemeteries across the county that still have them. It will be very interesting to see if they continue through the next generation or if it will fizzle out as the years go by.
Does your geographic region have decoration days or do anything interesting / special when it comes to the upkeep or remember loved ones that have passed on?
You can read more about decoration days in the Encyclopedia of Alabama http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-2316