Did You Know These Five Facts About Memorial Day?
Memorial day is the time to remember our patriotic heroes who sacrificed their lives to help all of us live in Freedom. This day is observed with families and friends visiting cemeteries and memorials to pay homage to their loved ones. Want to know more about this historic holiday?
Origin Of Memorial Day
Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868. It was observed by placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers during the first national celebration. James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which around 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there. It now honors any service person who served in any war the United States has been involved.
Why The Last Monday In May?
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. This date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country, no matter in which state you lived. (Remember, Alaska wasn't a state at the time.)
Making It Official
Memorial Day was not recognized as an official federal holiday until 1971. Typical celebrations include parades, dedications, and the placing of flowers and decorations on the grave sites of the fallen soldiers in every war. Originally, the official date of Memorial Day was on May 30th. However, when congress turned it into a long-weekend, many felt that it detracted from the spirit of the holiday. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."
The Progression Of Things To Come
Technically, Memorial Day is not a national holiday in the strictest sense of the word. While there are 11 "federal holidays" created by Congress - including Memorial Day - they apply only to Federal employees and the District of Columbia. The original Memorial Day allowed Civil War veterans, many of whom were drawing a government paycheck, to honor their fallen comrades without being docked pay. For the rest of us, Memorial Day was decided upon by the state. New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day a legal holiday, in 1873. Most Northern states had followed along by the 1890s. The Confederate states didn't want a holiday memorializing those who, in Gen. Logan's words, "united to suppress the late rebellion." The South didn't adopt the May 30 Memorial Day until after World War I, when it included those who died in all the country's wars.
Stop And Take A Moment
In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. (according to your own time zone) in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because 3 p.m. "is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday."