A Memorial Day History
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed the last Monday in May, to celebrate U.S. military personnel that died while serving their country.
Do you know these historical facts?
- In 1868, after the Civil War, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and became a holiday in the North honoring the military dead with flowers.
- It quickly became an official holiday throughout all of the Northern states.
- Throughout the South, mostly women’s groups put flowers on the graves of fallen Confederate solders.
- The Southern states attached the word “Confederate” to the Decoration Day holiday name to make it different from the holiday in the North.
- Major military losses on both sides led to the creation of national cemeteries.
- They were usually located near major battlegrounds.
- By 1870, there were almost 300,000 buried in national cemeteries.
- All soldiers buried in a national cemetery became American no matter what their heritage. It was considered a “baptism of blood”.
- Speeches given on this day were a combination of religion and nationalism.
- Decoration Day became Memorial Day in 1882.
- In 1967, Memorial Day was officially adopted as a national holiday.
- In 1968, it became the last Monday in May.
There a many Memorial Day Traditions being celebrated by Americans every year. Some of these include:
- Parades that current military personnel and veterans march in.
- The 1st Decoration Day parade was held in Doylestown, PA in 1867.
- The longest continuous parade celebration is in Ironton, Ohio. Their yearly parade started in 1868.
- Visiting national cemeteries or memorials and placing flowers and/or flags on the graves.
- Wearing “poppies” as a symbol of honor.
- In 1920, poppies were adopted as the official symbol of the National American Legion.
- In 2000 – The National Moment of Remembrance was started. This minute of silence, at 3pm, is to remember the military personnel that lost their lives defending this country.
- Flying the American flag at 1/2 staff for the morning then returning it to its full position at 12 noon. This symbolizes that the living not let “the sacrifices made be in vain and continue to fight for liberty and justice for all”.
Many Sporting events are held Memorial Day Weekend:
- The Indianapolis 500, since 1911, on the Sunday before Memorial Day and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 (since 1961) later the same day.
- The Memorial Tournament – golfing tournament since 1976
- NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse Championship
Casual Memorial Day Celebrations
Many Americans celebrate Memorial Day in a more casual way with barbeques, family gatherings, fireworks and pool openings.
Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of Summer!
No matter you celebrate, remember our fallen military, have a great Memorial Day weekend and let’s get the Summer season started!