What is Memorial Day?

Learn the history behind this honorable holiday

Do you know why we celebrate this important holiday?

Memorial Day is indicative of many things. For many, it represents the day folks dust off their grills, trade in their jeans for shorts, and break out the beach towels. And while this holiday has become the unofficial marker of summer, we tend to forget how much more it actually means.

The idea of Memorial Day originated three years after the Civil War ended with the institution of Decoration Day on May 5th.While it is unclear where the tradition started since many communities practiced similar rituals at various times of the year, the government claimed in 1966 that Waterloo, New York was to be considered as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo’s honor came from being the first area to formally recognize the holiday. They held a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honoring local veterans who fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff.

On May 5, 1868 General Major John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, suggested that the holiday be celebrated on the 30th of May. The date was said to be chosen because no particular battle was fought on that day and it was also thought that all of the flowers would be in bloom.

The holiday was celebrated on May 30th until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968. This established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May so federal employees could enjoy a three day weekend, also making it an official holiday. The change officially went into effect in 1971.

Since then, the day is celebrated by hosting family gatherings with patriotic influences. But in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, which encourages all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence for those who died in service to the nation.

So as you flip your burgers and watch the little ones run around in the yard, remember those who have given everything so you could have these memories with your family.


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