Memorial Day is the unofficial start to the Summer season, a day for barbeques and parties. However, it is also a day rooted in history and means quite a bit to a lot of Americans who have been personally touched by the service and sacrifice of our nation’s brave soldiers. Learn some of this history and facts as well as the meaning of Memorial Day.
Meaning of Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a nationwide Federal holiday as remembrance for all who have died in the service of our nation. This differs from Veteran’s Day which is a day to honor all who have served our nation. Memorial Day is named for the practice of laying flowers on the graves of civil war soldiers, creating a memorial to them, in its first year of nationwide observance on May 30, 1868 as the timeline on US Memorial Day demonstrates.
Factual History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day, when first established, was know as Decoration Day and was made an official Federal holiday on May 5, 1868 to honor both Union and Confederate fallen soldiers. Over the next few decades as America aged the holiday became extended to soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in all wars, not just the Civil War.
In a matter of decades, by 1890, all states had their own holiday to observe Decoration Day as it was then called. It was only a matter of time before a common day was settled on, however it took quite a bit longer than expected to come about.
Many different cities and towns claim that Memorial Day originated in them before spreading nationwide. History.com notes that in 1966 Waterloo, New York became officially recognized as the birthplace of this holiday although some other towns still hold firm on their claims and origin stories.
It was not until 1971, over 100 years later, that Memorial Day officially became a Federal holiday. Even before it was made a Federal holiday the final Monday of each May was established as Memorial Day. This is because in 1968 Congress passed a law called the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, according to Archives.gov, which placed many holidays on specific Mondays in order to give Federal workers long weekends in honor of these important days. The fact that it is a long weekend on the last week of may is why so many also think of it as a start to Summer.