Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day and commemorates all men and women who have died in military service for the United States.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials and participate or watch parades during this weekend. But Memorial Day Weekend has become seen as the start of the summer season. When did that change occur?
Decoration Day it originated in the years following the Civil War. When that war ended in spring 1865, it had claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history. It required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. It was soon after that some towns started having springtime tributes by decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.(Waterloo, New York was designated in 1966 as the official birthplace of Memorial Day.)
In 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans suggested a nationwide day of remembrance on May 30th as the day to decorate graves of fallen soldiers. later that month. He chose that day because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
After the two World Wars, soldiers killed in those wars were also included. Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, no matter when the date fell on the calendar.
Then, in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Included in this Act was the establishment of Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. That went into effect in 1971. It became an official federal holiday that year and also a public holiday, so schools and most businesses are closed.
My parents were married on May 30, mostly because my father could have a longer time off from work, but also because they thought it would mean they would always have their anniversary as a work-free day. My mother said that their honeymoon in Washington, DC was a big city-wide celebration, as if everyone was celebrating their wedding – and it would always seem that way. With 1971, that changed.
This year May 30 falls on the Thursday after Memorial Day Weekend.
Hopefully, this weekend is more than barbecues or a first trip to the beach or summer place.
The National Moment of Remembrance, established by Congress, asks Americans, wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause in an act of national unity for a duration of one minute. The time 3 p.m. was chosen because it is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday. The Moment does not replace traditional Memorial Day events; rather, it is an act of national unity in which all Americans, alone or with family and friends, honor those who died in service to the United States.