Memorial Day is coming, and while many of us are looking forward to a long weekend getaway, many people may not know why we get the day off. What are we memorializing? When did Memorial Day begin? How should we celebrate?
Here are five things worth knowing about Memorial Day and its history:
- Memorial Day is a U.S. Federal Holiday when the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered. In observance of this holiday, people visit cemeteries and memorials of those who died during their service and place American flags on their gravesites.
- It has not always been called Memorial Day. The original title of Memorial Day was “Decoration Day,” which was first used in 1868. “Memorial Day” did not become common until after World War II.
- Memorial Day did not always fall on a Monday. In 1968, Congress enacted the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established the observance of certain holidays on Mondays to help increase the number of three-day weekends for federal employees.
- The first observed Memorial Day was in 1866.The official birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo, N.Y., was declared by Congress and President Johnson in 1966. However, the observance was first celebrated on May 5, 1866, after the Civil War. There are several claims that local observances in both the North and South after the Civil War should be considered as the official first Memorial Day.
- A Moment of Remembrance is celebrated at the same time every Memorial Day. A national moment of remembrance for fallen veterans takes place every Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time.
On this Memorial Day, let’s all be thankful — not just for a day off of work, but also to the women and men who gave their lives serving in the United States Armed Forces.