Memorial Day: Not Just Another Holiday

For many Americans, Memorial Day is known as the kick-off of the summer season. After all, it is a three-day weekend perfect for having fun, taking a quick trip, and, of course, visiting with friends and family. But, for many other Americans, particularly those who have served in our armed forces, Memorial Day is much more than just a time to have fun.

By its very name, Memorial Day is a day set aside to commemorate the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. These brave men and women lost their lives, leaving behind friends and family with their freedom intact but their hearts broken.

A Brief History of Memorial Day

The exact beginning of Memorial Day is unknown, but we can trace its roots back to Decoration Day and the early tradition of cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves. In rural America, this was typically done in the late summer when families would gather for picnics and reunions.

Decoration Day became more prominent after the Civil War as monuments were erected, and ceremonies were held to acknowledge and remember the lives lost. The first official Decoration Day was May 30, 1868, when Northern General John A. Logan called for a day of remembrance to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.

The first Memorial Day Ceremony was presided over by President Ulysses S. Grant and General James A. Garfield (who later became the 20th U.S. president) at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 people joined in and decorated the graves of 20,000 Civil War soldiers.

After World War I, it became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America’s wars and was then more widely established as a national holiday throughout the United States.

Six Facts You Might Not Know About Memorial Day

  • A National Moment of Remembrance takes place every Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time. Congress established this tradition in 2000 as an act of national unity.
  • Initially, Memorial Day was on May 30. However, it was not until 1971 when Congress made Memorial Day a national holiday (to create a three-day weekend) observed the last Monday of May.
  • While the name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, it wasn’t officially called that until 1967, when federal law stated it as the official name.
  • Memorial Day was first acknowledged more by the Northern states (New York was the first to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday – 1873). Southern commemorations were rarely held on one day, with observations differing by state and spread throughout much of the spring and early summer.
  • It is customary to fly the flag at half-mast until noon and then raise it to the staff’s top until sunset.
  • Due to the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, many people wear red poppies to remember those who died. It references the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers.

So, have the barbecues, enjoy the sunshine and take time to celebrate life and living. Please remember to take a few moments to pause and reflect on the freedoms our heroes gave their lives for.

As the expression says, “All gave some, some gave all.” Take time to say thanks to a veteran today. While they came home, many did not – and Memorial Day is a great day to remember those who were willing to give their lives so we can enjoy a day like today.

At The Cedars, we have many Members who proudly served in the armed forces, and we honor them and all veterans this Memorial Day holiday.