Growing up, I would spend one weekend in May putting flowers on graves of relatives, especially those who died in service for our country, for what she called “Decoration Day”.
The tradition of decorating graves in remembrance of fallen soldiers began after the Civil War. On May 5, 1868, General John Logan, called for a national day of remembrance for soldiers who died in the Civil War to be observed later in May. He called the day Decoration Day.
“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,”
As the United States entered into more wars in the 1900’s, Decoration Day became a day to honor those who were lost in all wars. The name of the holiday, also, changed over the years from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. Although many older people still refer to it as Decoration Day.
Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 until 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Celebrating Memorial Day
Memorial Day weekend has evolved from simply solemn day of decorating graves, to celebrations of the unofficial start of summer. Families and friends have cookouts in their backyards. Pools open for the summer. Municipalities host parades featuring veterans and community groups.
However, graveside ceremonies to commemorate the lives sacrificed in war are probably the most true to the original intent of the holiday.
Memorial Day Resources
How do you commemorate Memorial Day?