It was another early, but voluntary, custom among Elks for the Subordinate Lodges to conduct a formal service in tribute to a brother who had died. With the growth of the Order this custom became more and more general; and the appealing sentiment of which it was born was crystallized in a Statute of the Order. Under its provisions the first Sunday in December of each year is designated as "Elks Memorial Day"; and it is mandatory upon each Subordinate Lodge to commemorate departed brothers on that day.
A definite ritual has been prescribed for this annual event, which lends itself with equal effectiveness to the simplest, or the most elaborate, of permitted programs.
The Memorial Service may be conducted in the Lodge room for members only; but it is often observed as a public ceremonial, with a program of special music and other appropriate features.
FLAG DAY SERVICE
It is to be expected that an organization dedicated to patriotic service should seek to promote a proper knowledge of, and respect for, the American Flag, and all that it represents. The Order of Elks has done this in many ways. Perhaps the most effective of its prescribed activities is the Flag Day Service. Each Subordinate Lodge is required to conduct this service annually on June 14th the anniversary of the birth of the American Flag.
The idea of a Flag Day Service was first suggested by the then Grand Exalted Ruler at the 1907 Grand Lodge Session in Philadelphia. Of the dates submitted for consideration at that time, June 14 was adopted by the session and was called "Elks Flag Day". The following year, in Dallas, the Grand Lodge approved a ritual for the Flag Day ceremony.
The 1911 Grand Lodge Session at Atlantic City made the observance of Flag Day mandatory for Subordinate Lodges by the adoption of Section 229 of the Statutes: "It shall be the duty of each Subordinate Lodge to hold the service known as "Flag Day Services" at the time and in the manner prescribed by the ritual of the Order.
Later on- at the Grand Lodge Session in Atlantic City in 1930- there was added to this statute an amendment, reading: "The Grand Exalted Ruler may, in exceptional cases and for good cause, grant a dispensation for a different day or to any two or more Lodges to hold such services jointly."
It was not until August 3, 1949 that the President of the United States signed Public Law 203, designating June 14 as Flag Day. Thus our Order was not only the first fraternal organization to celebrate Flag Day, but had made the ceremony mandatory long years before the date on which the observance became a nationwide practice by legal decree.
The ritual for the occasion is an elaborate one and it is quite generally conducted as a public ceremonial. It is designed to be informative as well as inspirational; and the colorful pageantry provided lends itself admirably to the achievement of these objectives.
The sentiments which are naturally and universally inherent in the relationship of mother and child, have led to the designation of the second Sunday in May each year as Mother's Day, upon which all people are encouraged to pay appropriate tribute to motherhood and to perform acts of filial affection and devotion. The Grand Lodge, by resolution, has accorded permission to Subordinate Lodges to celebrate Mother's Day, if they so desire, either for their own members or for the public. A ritual has been provided which they may use for the occasion; but its use is not mandatory.