(ConcernedPatriot.com) – Memorial Day is a national holiday in the United States celebrated on the last Monday in May in memory of the men and women who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces. Monday, May 29, 2023, will be Memorial Day.
It was first observed as Decoration Day in the years immediately following the Civil War, and it was made an official federal holiday in 1971.
Memorial Day is celebrated by many Americans by going to graves or memorials, hosting family gatherings, and taking part in parades. It signifies the start of the summer season informally.
Memorial Day’s Inception and Early Observances
The first national cemeteries had to be built because the Civil War, which concluded in the spring of 1865, resulted in more deaths than any other combat in American history.
By the end of the 1860s, Americans in numerous towns and cities had started paying springtime homage to these innumerable dead soldiers, placing flowers on their graves and saying prayers.
The origin of this custom is unknown; memorial meetings may have been independently started by many distinct communities.
And according to some documents, less than a month after the Confederacy’s surrender in 1865, a group of formerly-enslaved persons in Charleston, South Carolina, held one of the first Memorial Day commemorations.
Nevertheless, the federal government designated Waterloo, New York, as the Memorial Day holiday’s official birthplace in 1966.
The city of Waterloo, which observed the day for the first time on May 5, 1866, was chosen because it held an annual communal celebration in which businesses closed and citizens adorned soldiers’ graves with flowers and flags.
Day of Decoration
General John A. Logan, who was in charge of a group for Northern Civil War veterans, announced on May 5 that a national day of remembrance would be held later in the month.
“May 30, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he declared.
The day was chosen as Decoration Day since it wasn’t an anniversary of a specific conflict, as he described it.
General James Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery on the first Decoration Day, during which 5,000 people decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War veterans interred there.
Similar commemoration activities were held in many Northern states, and they continued the tradition over the years. By 1890, these states had proclaimed Decoration Day an official state holiday.
In contrast, until after World War I, Southern states kept observing distinct days to remember the deceased.
The Memorial Day Past
At first, Memorial Day—or Decoration Day, as it eventually became known—honored solely those who died while participating in the Civil War.
The event expanded to honor American military people who lost their lives in all wars, including World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, the United States became involved in another significant fight during World War I.
The day General Logan chose for the inaugural Decoration Day, May 30, has been honored as Memorial Day for many years.
But to provide government workers a three-day weekend, Congress approved the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, making Memorial Day the final Monday in May.
The modification became effective in 1971. Memorial Day was designated as a federal holiday by the same law.
Memorial Day Customs and Traditions
Every year, Memorial Day parades are held in cities and villages nationwide, frequently featuring members of the armed forces and veterans’ groups. Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. host some of the biggest parades.
Visits to cemeteries and memorials are another way that Americans honor Memorial Day. Some people wear red poppies to commemorate those who have died in battle; this custom dates back to a poem written during World War I.
Less somberly, many people go on weekend excursions or host parties and barbecues on holiday, maybe because Memorial Day weekend—the long weekend that consists of the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day itself—unofficially heralds the start of summer.
So let’s keep paying tribute to these heroes every day, not only on this special day, to celebrate their bravery, selflessness, and dedication, which will always be remembered in the annals of American history.
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