How Memorial Day Became an Important American Holiday

The history of Memorial Day
June 4, 2023
By: Eangee Home Design

It’s the unofficial start of summer approaches. Many Americans are preparing for barbecues, picnics, and beach trips. But Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May, is much more than just a three-day weekend. It’s a day to remember and honor the men and women who have died in service to our country. But do you know the history of this holiday, how it has evolved over time, and why we continue to celebrate today?

The History Decoration Day

The history of Memorial Day starts with a different name. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was first celebrated on May 30th, 1868. General John A. Logan, declared that the day should be dedicated to “the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.” The first observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers were buried in this important piece of American soil. In the years that followed, Decoration Day was primarily observed in northern states. Gradually it spread throughout the country.

From the Civil War to a Broader Day of Remembrance

During World War I, the holiday began to take on a broader meaning. Americans honored not just Civil War soldiers, but all those who had died in service to their country. In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael began wearing a red poppy. This served as a symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers an the tradition spread throughout the world. Today, the poppy is still widely used as a symbol of Memorial Day.

The history of Memorial Day

Poppies cover the wall of a memorial holding the names of fallen soldiers.

Becoming an Official Holiday With a New Name, Memorial Day

In 1967, the name of the holiday was officially changed to Memorial Day and in 1971 it was declared a national holiday. At this point the date moved from the 30th to the last Monday in May. This change was part of a broader effort to create more three-day weekends for American workers. This also created concerns that the holiday was losing its original purpose as a day of solemn remembrance. Despite these concerns, Memorial Day remains an important and meaningful holiday for many Americans. It is a day to honor the sacrifices of those who have served our country. We remember the fallen and to reflect on the costs of war. While the holiday has become associated with picnics, barbecues, and the unofficial start of summer, it is still a time for solemn reflection and gratitude.

Celebrating Memorial Day and Honoring our Soldiers

One of the most important ways that Americans can honor the memory of fallen soldiers is by supporting our living veterans. Organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project and the Disabled American Veterans provide vital support and services to veterans and their families. By donating to these organizations, volunteering your time, or simply expressing your gratitude to a veteran, you can help ensure that the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers are never forgotten.

The history of Memorial Day

The Marine Corp War Memorial in McLean, VA.

Honoring Sacrifice with Forward Facing Vision

In recent years, Memorial Day has also become a time to reflect on the broader impacts of war. There are different traditions regarding the honoring of the fallen. However, there is no question that their sacrifices should inspire us to work for a more peaceful and just world.

As we prepare to observe Memorial Day this year, let us take a moment to remember the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in service to our country. Let us honor their memory by working towards a future where we can resolve conflicts peacefully and where the horrors of war can be avoided. We can show our appreciation to our living veterans by supporting organizations that provide them with essential services and by expressing our gratitude for their service. By doing so, we ensure that the sacrifices of our fallen heroes are never forgotten.

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