Get a greater insight into the real meaning behind Memorial Day. Why does this holiday have more than one meaning? On one hand it honors those who gave their lives from all American wars. The one tradition more people celebrate, especially for those up North and welcome with open arms, is Memorial Day, which marks the unofficial start of summer. After a long brutal winter, that’s something to look forward to, especially after the polar vortex of 2013-2014. Here are some intriguing historical facts and fascinating trivia on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day.
Memorials for the Civil War dead began as early as 1864 with both the North and South decorating grave sites in Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and in parts of Illinois before it became official as Decoration Day (its original name) starting in 1868.
Memorial Day is technically not a national holiday; it’s a federal holiday that’s designated by the government. Banks, post offices, and other federal, state, county and city offices are closed.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery is the site each year on the last Monday of May where either the President or Vice-President lays a wreath. On the tomb inscription it reads “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
Here are U.S. casualty statistics from well-known past wars:
Civil War – Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000.
World War I – 116,516 Americans died with more than half from diseases.
World War II – 405,399 Americans died.
Korean War – 36,574 Americans died.
Vietnam War – 58,220 Americans died. More than 47,000 Americans were killed in action and nearly 11,000 died from other causes.
Jefferson Davis’ birthday actually coincides with Memorial Day in Mississippi.
It marks the first day of summer, unofficially. Traditionally in fashion, wearing white clothing is considered appropriate, including white shoes. This fashion code is no longer followed as in years past.
Doylestown, Pennsylvania has the distinction of being the oldest Memorial Day parade since 1866.
The Indianapolis 500 racing event takes place during the Memorial Day weekend. Its first race was held on May 30, 1911. May 30th is the former official day of Memorial Day, before it became the last Monday in May starting in 1971.
“Pirates of the Caribbean” in 2007 opened with the biggest box office for its holiday weekend. It still holds the record for the biggest Memorial Day weekend opening at 139 million.
This holiday weekend also kicks off the summer wedding season.