Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day. This one day; the last Monday of May in 1868 was declared by General John Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was his “General Order number 11” on May 5, 1868 that on the 30th of May be designated to honor the many men and women who died in the service of our country.
The 30th of May was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle; therefore not honoring one battle over any other; however, honoring all slain men and women.
On that first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery and 5,000 people decorated over 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers that are buried there.
The first officially recognized holiday:
In 1873 in New York, Decoration Day was first recognized and by 1890 all northern states recognized this tradition; however the southern states would not acknowledge this tradition, but instead honored their own day to remember their dead soldiers. This changed after World War ii and the southern states still have a “Confederate Memorial Day” to honor Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.
In 1971 Congress passed the “Congressional National Holiday Act of 1971. This Act of Congress gave us a three (3) day weekend for Federal holidays. However, there are a few southern states that still have an additional day on January 19th to honor their Confederate War dead.
The red poppies: https://www.usmemorialday.org
Mrs. Moina Michael inspired us in 1915 with her poem “In Flanders Fields” and it was Mrs. Michael who planted the seed to wear a red poppy on Memorial Day to honor those soldiers who died fighting for our freedom and she was the first to wear a red poppy and it was Mrs. Michael who was the first to sell the poppies to her friends and co-workers.
Later, Madam Guerin from France, after she saw this new idea of the red poppies, went back to France and made artificial red poppies and sold them to raise money for war orphaned children and war widowed women. Later this idea spread to other countries.