Things You Never Knew About Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a time to remember those who died serving our country. But did you know that the history of Memorial Day began long ago under a different name? Find interesting facts, trivia, and traditions associated with the special May holiday. You never know, what you learn might surprise you.
When is Memorial Day?
Each year, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. In 2011, Memorial Day is on May 30th.
What is the Purpose of Memorial Day?
Memorial Day honors those who died serving in the American military. The holiday began after the Civil War and was originally known as “Decoration Day,” because individuals honored those who died in the war by leaving flowers, or decorating the graves.
When Was Memorial Day First Celebrated?
Memorial Day, then known as Decoration Day, was first widely observed on May 30, 1868. General John A. Logan proclaimed on May 5, 1868 that May 30th of that year would be designated to honor those who died in the Civil War.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery. Then, 5,000 people decorated the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Q: When did Memorial Day first become a federal holiday?
A: 1971. Congress passed the National Holiday Act in 1971 making Memorial Day a federal holiday on the last Monday of May to ensure a three day weekend rather than celebrating Memorial Day on the traditional May 30th date.
Memorial Day Traditions
On Memorial Day, a small United States flag is placed on each grave site at Arlington National Cemetery to honor those who have given their life for our country. The President or Vice President of the United States also gives a speech and places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Moment of Silence
A moment of silence takes place each Memorial Day at 3pm local time to honor those who died serving our nation, as well as Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action.
It is a long-standing tradition to display the American flag on Memorial Day. On Memorial Day morning, the flag should be raised to the top for a moment and then lowered to half-staff until noon.
Visit the Graves of the Fallen
Honor those who have so graciously served our country by visiting a grave site to show your remembrance.
After reading the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrea, Moina Michael, a teacher, was inspired to wear red poppy flowers in tribute of veterans. She also advocated for the poppy to become a universal symbol of remembrance recognized by the United States government and universal public.
From In Flanders Fields and Other Poems
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae, 1915.
Memorial Day Parades
Across the country, cities hold Memorial Day parades to celebrate and honor those who served our country.
Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of the summer season, with many families having BBQs and going boating. If you plan on spending the weekend outdoors, be sure to check out these Memorial Day coupons for promo codes and special offers on everything from steaks to travel packages.
What are your Memorial Day traditions? Do you visit a memorial or do you spend time with the family outdoors? Have your travel expectations changed with high gas prices?
According to a Deloitte survey, slightly more Americans are planning on traveling during the Memorial Day holiday. And although gas prices are expected to drop during the summer, current flood and hurricane concerns may reduce the price drops by Memorial Day.
Share your plans for the three day weekend by leaving a comment below. And remember to take a moment to think about the true meaning of Memorial Day - to honor those who so bravely served our country - in addition to enjoying a day off.