Why Does Memorial Day Suck In Houston?

If you've ever lived outside of Texas or the Deep South, you can find yourself asking a simple question: What the hell happened to Memorial Day?

Up north and back east, it's a huge event. Every little town has a parade, there's a ceremony, people really, really look forward to it. (And even the little kids know: Memorial Day, for those who died in wars; Veteran's Day, for those who served.)

Here, not so much.

We're not as bad as some places in the Deep South, where it was only somewhat recently that kids even got the day off from school. That'll happen with a holiday declared by Abraham Lincoln. (Although we've never noticed any Dixie reluctance about Thanksgiving.)

To be sure, Houstonians enjoy the three-day weekend, and are probably slipping out of their cubicles by mid-Friday to get started. But why is it such a non-event in Houston?

Two big reasons:

1. Remnants of the Confederate past. Maybe no one today relates Memorial Day to its Civil War roots, but their parents or grand-parents did. Just like you find a lot more high schools named after Ulysses S. Grant in the north than you do in the south, the subtle traces of The War of Northern Aggression remain. Generations in Texas and the Southland haven't passed down the tradition of celebrating Memorial Day, so it's hard for people to suddenly pick it up now.

2. It doesn't mark the unofficial "Start of Summer." Up in colder climes, St. Patrick's Day marks the beginning of spring, and Memorial Day is when everyone considers the summer to have begun. Unfortunately, that often results in people freezing themselves close to death in the Atlantic or in some Midwest lake as they try to convince themselves summer has begun; the water temperatures don't always agree. Here in Houston, summer starts about...well, right around St. Patrick's Day, come to think of it.

To sum up: Houston, you love your slave days, and you're too damn hot.

That may overstate it, but it is a fact that the holiday is very different here. Of course, some people still go to military graves, or they do something to "support the troops."

But there's no dramatic and long-awaited uncovering of the (above-ground) pool, no elaborate picnics, no Little League teams and Girl Scout troops marching down suburban streets.

Frankly, unless you're marching in one of those parades, they're not that fun. So you've got that going for you, Houston.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly