According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the origin of Memorial Day is quite detailed and interesting. It began on May 5th, 1868, three years after the Civil War ended. On that day, Major General John A Logan, issued General orders No. 11. Logan was leader of The Grand Army of the Republic,(GAR) an organization of Union soldier veterans.
He decreed that May 30th was to be the official day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers by strewing them with flowers. He named the observance, Decoration Day. I remember when I was a young girl, my grandmother always referred to May 30th as Decoration Day.I did not know why, until now.
The first Decoration Day ceremony was held in Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia, with more more than 5,000 in attendance. General and Mrs Ulysses S Grant presided over the service and General James Garfield gave a speech. At the end of the service, members of the DAR, along with children from the Soldiers and Sailors Orphan home began strewing flowers on the graves of all soldiers, both Confederate and Union .
In 1967 the Federal Government officially changed the name of the day to Memorial Day. At this time the day became an observance of fallen soldiers n all U..S. wars. The following year due to the Uniform Holiday Act Memorial Day was changed to on the last Monday in May. This gives many employees around the nation, a 3 day weekend.
Memorial day is no longer only about deceased soldiers. I remember as a teen going to the Blue Ridge/Saunders Family cemetery on this date with older relatives. We placed flowers on the graves of family who had ever been in the armed services. At that time we replaced the old faded artificial flowers with new ones, and cleaned around our loved ones graves, as there was no caretaker.
In Roanoke Va., Hamlar Curtis Funeral Home invites the public to attend an annual Memorial Day service, in remembrance for all dead loved ones. A minister officiates, there is singing, lighting of candles and brunch.