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Eric Bergeson column: Time to move Memorial Day

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It seems odd that Memorial Day, a holiday for remembering the departed, arrives just when our land is teeming with new life.

Sky blue eggs in the robin's nest. Sticky lime leaves on the aspen. Lurid green lawns. Bees buzzing in the apple blossoms. Spring is all about youth and newness.

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Many schools have graduation the day before Memorial Day. Compare attendance at graduation, a ritual honoring the young, with attendance at Memorial Day services, a day honoring the dead: Graduation wins hands down.

Spring is as good a time as any, I suppose, to clean up the gravesites and plant flowers at the cemetery. Some old-timers still refer to Memorial Day "Decoration Day," a title that seems more appropriate for what goes on.

We should continue to decorate graves and plant flowers and pull up the quack and wipe off the dust from the spring windstorms off the stones and put flags out for veterans and generally spiff things up the last Monday in May.

But remembering the dead shouldn't play second fiddle to graduation. It should have its own time, in a more appropriate season.

I would suggest combining Memorial Day with Veterans Day, November 11, a holiday that has sunk to second-tier status.

Originally known as Armistice Day, November 11 was the day the Great War, later known as World War I, finally ended.

World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars. People generally assumed that the slaughter on the battlefields of World War I would never be repeated. Humans would never be that stupid.

So, they celebrated Armistice Day with gusto in the 1920s and 1930s. What a relief that we would never again see millions die to conquer a few acres of Belgian farmland!

But the Treaty of Versailles that ended the Great War was so botched, so unwise, so vindictive that it made another conflagration inevitable. World War II quickly exceeded the Great War in horror, death and destruction.

The hope and promise of Armistice Day proved hollow. The holiday faded and eventually became Veterans Day, a holiday where few businesses close and few people pause to remember.

But what a perfect time of the year to commemorate those who have gone before, both military and civilian.

So, I would propose to the powers that be that we make two moves.

First, because we need some sort of holiday to begin summer, the last Monday of May could again become Decoration Day, a day when we plant flowers on graves and give bouquets to graduates.

Secondly, we should combine Veterans Day, Armistice Day, Memorial Day -- and lets throw in Halloween, while we're at it -- into a single late autumn holiday weekend commemorating those who have gone before us.

The weekend nearest November 11 would be ideal. Is there any time more suggestive of death, more somber, more sullen than a dull gray November day with white pellets of snow rattling in the crispy fallen leaves?

Early November is the time when clusters of dark-coated loved ones should gather at the graves of their departed for one last time this year, when the rhythm of the seasons naturally makes one melancholy.

The holiday could be spread over an entire weekend. Friday night would be reserved for the silliness of Halloween. The kids need that.

Saturday evening would be a time to have a candlelight meal honoring departed friends and relatives, with ample food and drink and late night toasts.

Sunday services would wallow in the dark religious music of the great masters. The requiems of Bach, Brahms and Mozart would be requisite.

Late Sunday afternoon would feature an uplifting concert of more upbeat music, just to end things on a high note - or maybe just a Vikings game.

A Memorial Day weekend in November wouldn't require a Monday holiday. Monday holidays are annoying, anyway. Who wants another day with no mail?

The effectiveness of our holidays depends upon them appearing at a time appropriate for what they are meant to commemorate.

Moving Memorial Day to November would not only eliminate competition with graduation, but would more effectively honor those who have gone before.

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