Memorial Day Memorial Day (Decoration Day) is a legal holiday in the United States. It occurs on the last Monday in May. It is a day of remembrance and honor for those members of the United States armed forces who have died in the nation’s service.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first observed on May 5, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers.
Arlington Mansion and 200 acres of ground immediately surrounding it were designated officially as a military cemetery June 15, 1864, by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
The official birthplace of Memorial Day is Waterloo, NY. The village was credited with being the birthplace because it observed the day on May 5, 1866, and each year after that. A druggist named Henry C. Wells proposed the idea. Also because it is likely that the friendship of General John A. Logan, who led the call for the day to be observed each year and helped spread the event nationwide, was a key factor in its growth.
Many sources agree that it was General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic who on May 5, 1868, Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that: "The 30th of May, 1868 as a day for strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, or hamlet churchyard in the land...It is the purpose of the commander-in-chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept from year to year while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of the departed."
The alternative name of "Memorial Day" was first used in 1882, but did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967 . On June 28, 1968, the United States Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved three holidays from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend and for the first time recognized Columbus Day as a federal holiday. The holidays included Washington's Birthday (which evolved into Presidents Day, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971 . After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply at the state level, all fifty states adopted the measure within a few years, although Veterans Day was eventually changed back to its traditional date.
The symbol that represents Memorial Day is the American flag. We do this to honor our country.
Memorial Day Traditions Every Memorial Day, families and communities across the nation take time to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. Americans observe this special holiday in many different ways. Here are a few of those traditions:
Visiting Gravesites Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time to honor the nation's dead by decorating their graves with flowers. Many Americans make special flower arrangements and deliver them as a family to gravesites of their loved ones and ancestors.
Family and American History Memorial Day is a favorite time for Americans to read their family history, look at old photographs and learn about their ancestors, especially those who died in the line of battle. It's also an occasion for reading Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and other historic and patriotic speeches by Presidents and leaders of the Armed Services.
Displaying the Flag On Memorial Day, the U.S. flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon. In the morning, the flag should be raised momentarily to the top, then lowered to half-staff. Americans can also honor prisoners of war and those missing in action by flying the POW/MIA flag.
National Moment of Remembrance In accordance with a congressional resolution passed in 2000, Americans pause wherever they are at 3 pm local time for a moment of silence to remember and honor the fallen.
Experience the National Memorials Memorial Day can also be an opportunity to visit or read about the national memorials in Washington and others around the country.
Memorial Day Parades The Memorial Day parade is a time-honored tradition in cities and towns across America, where neighbors come together to remember with pride those who sacrificed so much for our country.
Memorial Day Poppies The tradition of red poppies on Memorial Day was inspired by the 1915 poem "In Flanders Fields," by John McCrea. Seeing the poem and its colorful illustration in a magazine, Georgia teacher and volunteer war worker Moina Michael made a personal pledge always wear red silk poppies as an emblem for "keeping the faith with all who died." She also began a campaign to make the poppy a universal symbol of tribute and support for veterans. Through her efforts, the idea was adopted in the United States and spread to England, France, Australia and more than 50 other countries.
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