Every year on the last Monday in May, the United States observes Memorial Day as a federal holiday. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was created to honor Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the American Civil War. By the 1900s, it had evolved into a commemoration of all American soldiers who died while serving in the military. It was not legally named Memorial Day until 1967. In 1971, it was designated as a federal holiday.
The true origins of who held the first Memorial Day celebration are a source of contention.
During the Civil War, approximately 620,000 soldiers on both sides died.
The Union Army established the Grand Army of the Republic to honor their fallen soldiers. Following World War I, the American Legion took over their responsibilities.
In 2000, Congress passed legislation requiring all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to remember and honor those who died while serving in the United States. This action was signed by President Clinton.
On Memorial Day, the flag should be flown at half-mast until noon, then raised to full mast until sunset.
John McCrae’s 1915 poem In Flanders Fields inspired the tradition of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day.
On Remembrance Day in November each year, Canadians wear red poppies to honor their soldiers.
One tradition, which is no longer as popular today, was to eat a picnic meal while sitting on the ground of a cemetery.
This tradition is still practiced by some people in the rural areas of the South.
Volunteers frequently place the American flag on graves in national cemeteries. Memorial Day is also a popular day for people to visit cemeteries and pay their respects to those who died while serving in the military.
Over Memorial Day weekend, it is estimated that approximately 32 million people will travel by car.
Memorial Day also heralds the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day heralds the end.
Around this time, some areas of the rural South hold annual Decoration Days for specific cemeteries, often in the mountains.
Veterans Day and Memorial Day are sometimes confused. Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors all United States military veterans, whereas Memorial Day honors soldiers who died while serving.
President Lyndon B. Johnson established Memorial Day in 1966 in Waterloo, New York.
The Civil War claimed more American lives than the two World Wars combined. Approximately 620,000 people died during the Civil War, 116,516 during World War I, and 405,399 during World War II.
Arlington Cemetery is home to over 300,000 fallen soldiers. Every day, on average, 28 people are buried there.
Confederate Memorial Day is observed in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. These are former Confederate states that observe various other holidays ranging from January 19th to June 3rd.
Memorial Day, a film, was released in 2012. The film starred John and James Cromwell, as well as Jonathan Bennett. The plot revolves around a 13-year-old boy who discovers his grandfather’s WWII footlocker.