Memorial Day: A Brief History

Hello Friends,

Happy Memorial Day! For our time together, I thought I would share with you some information regarding Memorial Day: its birth place, its original name, some history about the day, and, of course, recognizable traditions and rituals. But first, let me provide you with some basic information.

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

Now for the interesting facts:

  1. The Birthplace of Memorial Day: By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers. It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo—which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
  2. Original Name: On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. Decoration Day, as it was called, was a day to decorate the graves of service men and women who had passed away.
  3. History of Memorial Day: Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars. For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date General Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
  4. Memorial Day Traditions and Rituals: Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because Memorial Day weekend—the long weekend comprising the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day itself—unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

I hope you were able to learn something new about Memorial Day (or Decoration Day). I encourage you. before you attend any parade or barbecue, to start your day off by thanking God for all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to secure your freedom, and then pray for all the family and friends who are sad because the one who sacrificed their life is not able to celebrate with them. May God bless all those who paid the ultimate price so that we can live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Your Friend, Holy Spirit

If you have time, I invite you to watch this brief, kid-friendly, video about Memorial Day:


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