Etiquette & superstition: not really dead soldiers

I was going to go on this whole thing about how it’s a terrible idea to have Memorial Day at the end of May because everybody defaults to “Summer! Yeah!” rather than “Dead soldiers. Sad,” but the day was in fact established for decorating the graves of dead soldiers with flowers, and once upon a time we couldn’t get flowers year-round from Safeway or Trader Joe’s or wherever, so it actually makes sense to have the day during the part of the year when traditionally there have been flowers available. I’ll just shut up and not go on that whole thing.

ETIQUETTE: During a mock battle, war re-enactors have to balance their desire for authenticity with their desire to not get heatstroke. Reenactment styles vary by region and personal focus, but it is generally agreed that if you are wearing a wool uniform in the middle of summer on a sunny battlefield, it is acceptable to die under a shade-bearing tree, provided it seems natural for you to be fighting under that tree in the first place. A hat cocked over one’s eyes after a fatal hit is an alternative, as is screaming, “I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!” and running off the battlefield. Seriously. It’s authentic.

Re-enactors seem to have strong and varied opinions about soldiers who die too quickly on the field vs. soldiers who are miraculous anonymous action heroes who survive with nary a scratch. To avoid issues of this sort, some societies have taken to assigning death times to participants via a card or token system. Don’t cheat if you have been assigned to die. It doesn’t work in real life, either.

SUPERSTITION: A Russian soldier’s name coming up on a list of war casualties by accident portends a long and happy life for that soldier, provided his family doesn’t kill him for upsetting them so much when they were told he’d fallen.

Photo by Woody Hibbard via Flickr

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