When many of us think of Memorial Day, we get excited that our neighborhood pools are finally going to open and we’ll have a three-day weekend to take in the sunshine. And while Memorial Day is a great time to celebrate family, cook out with friends and play outside with the kids, it’s also an important time to pause and be thankful for those who have served our country or given their lives for a cause in which they truly believed.
That said, here are five simple ways you can take in the full meaning of the holiday (even if you’re on your way to the pool):
1. Visit a local cemetery and decorate a grave. This is a great way to involve the whole family in appreciating the lives of people they’ve never met. Buy flowers and place them on the grave of someone who served in a war, or visit the gravesite of a relative and pause to be thankful for his or her life.
2. Fly your flag at half-staff. Most people don’t have full flagpoles at their homes, but if you do, remember to fly those colors at half-staff Monday in honor of those who gave their lives to ensure our freedom.
3. Tour a local monument. Find out if your city has a memorial or monument to soldiers from your area who have served, and take the family for a quick tour. It’s a great history lesson and an even better way to feel connected to the people you’re commemorating.
4. Celebrate the people in your own family. Memorial Day doesn’t have to be all about people you’ve never met. You may have people in your extended family who have served our country who you could celebrate and thank as well.
5. Attend a Memorial Day parade. It’s always fun to celebrate spring and summer holidays outside with other people. Find a Memorial Day parade in your area and join the festivities. If you’re in a quaint downtown area, you can take part in other activities or grab an ice cream cone at a local ice cream parlor to stay cool.
No matter how you celebrate this year, don’t forget that Memorial Day is a great time to communicate your thankfulness to others.