Happy Memorial Day weekend, friends!
Everyone loves holidays, no matter what the specific occasion. Memorial Day is no exception. Summer-time holidays like this usually involve some type of outdoor gathering with a guarantee of some over-indulgent eating! I personally look forward to that! I have to remember however, that Memorial Day, is not just about burgers and hot dogs.
Each year on the last Monday in May the United States celebrates Memorial Day. It was first known as Decoration Day, meant to honor the Union and the Confederate soldiers who died during the American Civil War. Later, after World War I, the memorial was amended to include all American soldiers who died. In 1967 it was legally named Memorial Day and became a federal holiday in 1971.
Memorial Day Facts
- Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. They may have chosen that date because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
- In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson named Waterloo, New York as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day.
- Memorial Day is sometimes confused with Veterans Day. The difference? Veterans Day honors all United States military veterans, while Memorial Day honors the soldiers who died while serving.
- The flag is supposed to be flown at half-mast until noon, and then raised to full mast until sunset on Memorial Day.
- After World War I the day was expanded to honor not only those who died in after Civil War but also those who died in all American wars.
- It’s common for volunteers to place the American flag on graves in the national cemeteries. On this day, many families also visit cemeteries to honor the fallen soldiers.
- Memorial Day also marks the beginning of the summer vacation season while Labor Day marks the end.
- The tradition of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day originated from John McCrae’s 1915 poem In Flanders Fields. (We have a similar poppy tradition in Jamaica, which happens in November of each year.)
- Parades are held across the country. The largest one being in the Nation’s Capital.
- Although not as popular today, one tradition was to eat a picnic meal while sitting on the ground of a cemetery. There are still some people in the rural areas of the South that continue to practice this tradition.
- President Clinton signed this act in 2000 which designates 3pm on Memorial Day as the “National Moment of Remembrance” to honor those who have died.
And more resources
- Memorial Day history
- Memorial Day video (4 mins) – (always pre-screen videos for kids)
- FREE Memorial Day Fill-in-The Blanks Fact Sheet
Having lived in the U.S. a little over a decade, and continue to learn more about this nation’s heritage, and the significance of holidays like this, I grow in my appreciation of it’s rich and varied history. Yes, the burgers and hot dogs are great, but honoring the memory of those no longer with us is far greater. If you’re getting together with family and friends, or visiting a national cemetery, whatever you do, enjoy your Memorial Day and find a way to give thanks by honoring those that have paid the ultimate price.
Happy Memorial Day 2016!