Memorial Day is one of our country’s most cherished holidays with people, nationwide, celebrating it. Despite the holiday’s popularity, many people don’t know the origins of this famous and honored day. Here are 10 facts for you to contemplate while flipping burgers on the grill.
- Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day” for the decorations that people put on the graves of soldiers who had died.
- Originally, women’s groups in the South were the ones who did the decorating. There’s even a hymn that was published in 1867 called “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” about the war widows and other grieving women caring for the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers.
- Dozens of cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day as we know it today; however, in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y. to be the official birthplace.
- General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic officially proclaimed Memorial Day on May 5, 1868. It was then first observed on May 30, 1868, by placing flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
- The tradition of wearing red poppies began during WWI, in 1915. The tradition spread to other countries, as women sold artificial poppies as a way to raise money for servicemen in need, war widows, and children orphaned by the war.
- For over the last 60 years, the 1200 soldiers serving with the 3rd US Infantry decorate each of the 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery with small American Flags on the Thursday before Memorial Day. Afterward, a patrol is on duty 24 hours a day to make sure that each flag stays standing.
- Memorial Day wasn’t made into a 3 day weekend until 1971-before that, it had always been observed on May 30.
- In 1911, Carl Fisher established the first Indianapolis 500 on May 30, which caused a bit of scandal at the time.
- The Tomb of the Unknowns was established for an unknown soldier who fell in WWI; his remains were interred on November 11, 1921. After WWII and the Korean War, more unknown soldiers were added.
- It’s tradition that American flags are raised quickly then lowered to half-staff or half-mast until noon, then raised to the top of the pole until sunset.
“Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs: Memorial Day History” –VA
“Memorial Day” –Snopes