Monday, May 26, 2014

History of Memorial Day

MemorialDay, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.

It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Decoration Day

On May 5, 1862, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Many Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.

Evolution of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Memorial Day Traditions

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.
From the History website.

Monday, May 19, 2014

My Visit to a Doll Museum

Doll in the store
Like most girls growing up I played with dolls.  When my friend, living near Hanau-Wilhemsbad in Germany mentioned that there was a Doll Museum in town, I was happy to visit there.  It was truly a treat to see the Hessische Puppenmuseum.

Japanese dolls
The museum features the history of dolls, all the way from the antique clay sculptured dolls to modern dolls with wigs and beautiful clothes, including the Barbie doll.  There were also collections of beautiful Japanese dolls as well as bears and other toys and their accessories.

One can only say that the development of play toys has come a long way.  I noticed that even though toys are made for kids to amuse themselves with, many of the doll houses and things created for exhibitions are solely made for adult enjoyment. 

Miniature Department Store

I am referring to a large exhibition of the largest miniature department store in the world.  Each room had so many details and intricate things displayed that it could not be used by kids unless it would break or get messed up shortly.

Schildkroet (Turtle Mark) Dolls ands their accessories

I even found a sample of the doll I received as a present from my grandmother one Christmas.  It is one of the well-known German Turtle Mark (Schildkroet) dolls.  It was the only toy I brought with me when my family fled from East-Germany in 1961.

When I saw all the cute dolls and their accessories like stores, dishes and wagons, I was carried back to my childhood and at the same time thought of my little grand-daughters who are just starting to play with dolls.


Monday, May 12, 2014

My Birthday Day Present to My Mom

My mother just turned 89 and I was able to celebrate her birthday with her.  Since she doesn’t want any presents, I just made enough time to sit with her and keep her company.  I can’t visit her very often, since she lives in Germany, and I live in the U.S.A. 

She is getting very frail and can’t walk anymore without help.  She lives in a nursing home now and is taking care of her everyday needs.

Throughout my time with her I was looking for opportunities to share my faith with her and explain to her about eternal life.  It is her belief that when she dies that will be the end of her.  Unfortunately, every time I mentioned anything about spiritual life, she either changed the subject or tried to ignore me.

I was always looking for something to share that would uplift her and get her out of the mood of complaint and resign. 

One day, during my visit with her, she didn’t even get out of bed, because she didn’t feel well.  I moved my chair close to her bed.  We talked for a while.  I started looking around her room when my eyes fell upon a book which was nestled in between a few teddy bears in a basket on the floor.  I picked up the book and asked my mother if I could read the story to her.  The story in the book is one of my mother’s favorite since her grandmother used to tell it her when she was a child.

The name of the book is: “What Three Little Bears Experience in the Woods;” by Margarete Thiele.  As the story goes, three young boys named Hans, Rudi and Wolfgang were given each a small bear which they named Puhz, Jochen, and Wollbaeckchen (Wooly Cheeks).  When the family goes on an outing, the boys take their bears along and loose them in the woods.  The three bears go on an endearing adventure, meeting all kinds of animals in the forest, riding in a walnut shell on the river, taking to birds, and eating all kinds of critters.  After several days, their owners come looking for them, and they are reunited in at small café at the edge of the woods.

I enjoyed reading the story and learn myself about the unusual journey of the little bears which were so dear to my mother’s heart.  It took me all afternoon, resting my voice in between reading, and showing my mother the colorful picture of the voyage. 

By the time we were finished with the tale my mother thanked me over and over for reading the fairytale to her.  And every time I talk to her now, she still reminds me of how much she enjoyed the story.

I was not able to talk to my mom about God or eternal life, but I could renew a long lost childhood memory.  After all, I am satisfied with my gift for her Birthday.  I love you, Mutti.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Remembering My Confirmation

On my recent trip back to Germany I was reminded of my confirmation in 1964.  Some friends were taken part in a celebration for 'Golden Confirmation.'  Even though I was not part of their group, I started to reflect on what that experience did for me.

Prior to the confirmation event, we had to go to classes for a whole year.  On Sundays, we had to attend church.  A certain number of attendances were required to qualify for the confirmation.  I remember sitting in the church, feeling very uneasy by looking at the crucified Jesus.  Throughout the lessons, it didn’t become clear to me why Jesus had to die on the cross.  I don’t remember much of the content of the classes I attended. 

Never-the-less, I very much appreciate the advice our Pastor gave us, saying: “Make yourself expensive, because you are precious.”  That, along with giving us the choice for a Bible quote, which I selected from Proverbs 16:9 has helped me tremendously over the years.

“The human heart plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
~ Proverbs 16:9

In fact, I believe, it has helped me to be guided along to find my faith and eventually, join the Unification Church.  The teaching of the Divine Principle has given me all the answers I had in the days of my preparation for confirmation and thereafter.  I learned that the crucifixion of Jesus was caused by the ignorance of the people of His days, and that He came to forgive our wrongdoings and to reconnect us to our Heavenly Parent, God.  His sacrifice brought us spiritual salvation.

I am grateful for the foundation of faith which Pastor Bruns gave me.  If nothing else, the quote has given me guidance throughout my life.

Going back to the small town, Gehrden by Hannover, also made me remember my first job.  I was still in school, when I worked a few hours a week at the bakery and pastry shop Kohlenberg.  At that time I didn’t know that the building was a historical timber-framed house build in 1748.  The “Café am Markt” is still there today, although it is under new management.  Working there as a young student of 15 also taught me that making one’s own money gives one pride and satisfaction.  I didn’t have to ask my parents for an allowance and could finance my own interests in traveling.

Looking back on these experiences, I realize that we have to constantly make choices.  Choices are made based on the beliefs and values we were given by our parents, teachers or other persons of influence, or we create for ourselves.