Do you know what Memorial Day is all about? Three-day weekends and BBQ? A trip to the beach? Everything on sale? Higher gas prices? Well, for most of us, yes. That’s what we associate with Memorial Day. But do you know the history of Memorial Day? Most Americans, especially younger ones (let’s say…..college age…..sipping specialty coffee in their safe places) have no clue why we celebrate Memorial Day.
Here’s a quick reminder.
The History of Memorial Day
Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.
During that first national celebration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
This event was inspired by local observances of the day that had taken place in several towns throughout America in the three years after the Civil War. In 1873, New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. By the late 1800s, many more cities and communities observed Memorial Day, and several states had declared it a legal holiday. After World War I, it became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America’s wars and was then more widely established as a national holiday throughout the United States.
When Is Memorial Day?
In 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and established that Memorial Day was to be celebrated on the last Monday of May. Several southern states, however, officially celebrate an additional, separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead, sometimes referred to as a Confederate Memorial Day: January 19 in Texas; third Monday in Jan. in Arkansas; fourth Monday in Apr. in Alabama and Mississippi; April 26 in Florida and Georgia; May 10 in North and South Carolina; last Monday in May in Virginia; and June 3 in Louisiana and Tennessee.
Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery each year with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Traditionally, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.
I’m sure you had a pretty good idea about the holiday was all about but just to make yourself feel a little better (or worse depending on how you look at it), check out these clueless idiots.
▼ Warning: If this is our future, we are in big trouble ▼