It's hard to read an Alabama author who doesn't somehow mention the tradition of Decoration Day. Joey Brackner describes it as follows:
Decoration Day is an annual observance at many privately owned southern graveyards during which families gather to clean up the graveyard, reconnect with family, and honor the memories of their ancestors.
Sometimes the terms "Decoration Day" and "Homecoming" are used synonymously. However, homecoming instead can be the equivalent of a founder's day for individual churches. The term appears to be more commonly used to describe similar activities in the southern portion of the state and among African American communities throughout the state, where the focus is less on the cemetery and more on food and social activities.
The exact origins of Decoration Day are unclear, although traditions of eating in cemeteries and decorating graves are found in other cultures. The tradition seems to predate Memorial Day (once known as Decoration Day) and Confederate Memorial Day, both of which have a military focus. At some point, the warm months between March and September became the preferred season for commemorating the dead among southerners. These months are the slower period in the agricultural year, between planting and harvest, so more people were available to help with cemetery maintenance. In addition, American Protestants may have consciously chosen a cemetery memorial holiday apart from the Catholic All Souls Day on November 2, which also features floral decorations and feasting. The availability of fresh flowers also may have been a reason to select the early summer season. Because the date, usually reckoned by a particular Sunday in a particular month, varies by cemetery, families can easily participate in several Decoration Days in their region.
Tuscaloosans who would like to witness it up close and personal need only drive to Brookwood, where Little Hurricane Baptist Church still honors those who have gone before us in this way.
And then there is the influence on music. At least two bands from Alabama- The Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- feature Decoration Day in recent albums. Now Decoration Day playlists are hitting the semi-mainstream.
You can download the Mason Jar Collective's free album, Decoration Day: Volune 2, online at Noisetrade. Good stuff from great songwriters who know that the best song always includes a story.