Memorial Day is a time when families gather, have a barbecue or travel. Yet, Memorial Day is so much more than a holiday where people flock to the beaches. It is a time to remember and to count our blessings for our freedom. But most importantly, it is a time to honor those who died while fighting for our country. The meaning and history of the holiday is significant. Here is the story behind Memorial Day.
During and after the Civil War, people began celebrating Decoration Day. People would put flowers on the graves of those who died in the Civil War. Eventually Decoration Day became known as Memorial Day. While Memorial Day has become the more well-known term for the occasion, some people still recognize Decoration Day as a tradition to clean and adorn the cemeteries.
Where Did it all Begin?
There are conflicting stories about the birthplace of Memorial Day. Many cities want this to claim this title. However, according to history.com, in 1966, when Lyndon B. Johnson was president, the federal government deemed Waterloo, New York “the official birthplace of Memorial Day.” The town of Waterloo had their first celebration on “May 5, 1866.” In addition, each year thereafter, Waterloo had made Memorial Day a priority (by closing businesses, decorating graves and making it a community event). Yet, although Waterloo may have been given the birthplace title, usmemorialday.org, claims, “organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.”
The Civil War began in 1861 and ended in 1865. During this time, many people felt the need to come together and commemorate those who died serving our country during the Civil War. Of course, now during Memorial Day we are not only honoring the soldiers who died in the Civil War but all Americans who have fallen in military conflict.
Arlington National Cemetery
According to cnn.com, on May 30, 1868, the first official “Memorial Day” (known then as Decoration Day) Ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery, where General James Garfield delivered a speech. On this day, they honored and remembered those who died fighting for their country in the “late rebellion.” They also decorated “more than 20,000” graves with flowers. Today, many people go to Arlington National Cemetery to take part in the “annual remembrance ceremony” held in the Memorial Amphitheater. Many other small ceremonies take place at this historic cemetery.
In 1971, Congress gave Memorial Day the official National Holiday status and also established its date as the last Monday in May. Still, even today, some states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day at various times during the year.
There may still be different times people celebrate America’s fallen. There may be differences in opinion about where and when Memorial Day started. However, when we think of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the sentiment to commemorate those who died in defense of their country should ring loud and clear.
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Bible Verses to Honor Fallen Soldiers
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