Memorial Day comes every year, but some people just blindly celebrate the holiday as a free pass out of work or school. There is more to this holiday than just summer BBQs and pool parties. Here are the most important Memorial Day facts every American should know.
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The Most Interesting Memorial Day Facts and FAQs
Every proud American should understand the meaning behind Memorial Day and why the country celebrates it. In the past, people mainly relied on traditional media and stories from family members. In the age of the Internet, it is now much easier to access information regarding Memorial Day history. As a starting point, here are the most interesting Memorial Day FAQs.
How Did Memorial Day Really Start?
Originally called Decoration Day, the real history of Memorial Day began as a way to commemorate soldiers who died during the Civil War. But, after two World Wars, the day evolved into a general day to remember fallen members of the United States armed forces. It was originally celebrated every 30th of May, but that eventually changed to every last Monday of the month of May. In 1971, the government officially declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Who Started Memorial Day?
One of the most widely discussed topics about this day of remembrance is who created Memorial Day. Union General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic was the one who codified the holiday and named it Decoration Day. Logan sought to commemorate fallen comrades on May 30, 1868. Though, it is worth noting that people had already been decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers prior to this codification.
Today, many cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. According to the Library of Congress, the town of Waterloo in New York celebrated Memorial Day in 1866, leading President Lyndon Johnson to declare the town as the birthplace of the holiday. But, several other places are known to have commemorated the holiday prior to the Waterloo celebration in 1866.
Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?
The reason for Memorial Day is to honor and mourn the deaths of members of the United States armed forces. Again, the holiday began as a way to remember the soldiers who died during the Civil War, but it has since developed into a day of general commemoration. It is important to salute and recognize the brave military personnel who gave their lives in the service of their country.
How Does Memorial Day Differ from Veterans Day?
With Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day also celebrated in the United States, it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between the three military-centric holidays. Memorial Day, which takes place every last Monday of May, commemorates the military personnel who lose their lives while serving in the United States armed forces.
Veterans Day, on the other hand, takes place on November 11 and pays tribute to all those who served (but not necessarily died) in the United States armed forces. Finally, Armed Forces Day honors personnel currently serving in the United States armed forces. It is worth noting that Armed Forces Day, which takes place on the third Saturday of May, is not a federal holiday.
What Are Some Memorial Day Traditions?
Americans celebrate Memorial Day in several ways. A lot of people visit cemeteries and memorials, laying the American flag on the graves of fallen military personnel. Many cities also hold parades in commemoration of the federal holiday, with some of the biggest taking place in the cities of New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. On a smaller scale, family and friends typically get together during this day to break bread under one roof.
How Do Homeowners Associations Celebrate Memorial Day?
Since Memorial Day signifies the unofficial start of the summer season, pool parties and outdoor BBQs are popular ways that HOAs celebrate the holiday. During this time, homeowners associations organize a community event that gathers residents and encourages socialization. People take part in fun activities and share a meal with one another. It is a way to bring people together and instill a sense of community among homeowners.
Other Memorial Day Trivia
Here are some other fast Memorial Day facts Americans will find interesting.
Longest Observances of Memorial Day
The city of Rochester in Wisconsin has held an annual Memorial Day parade since 1867, making it the longest observance of the holiday. Coming in second place are the cities of Doylestown in Pennsylvania and Grafton in West Virginia. Both cities have had ongoing parades since 1868.
Memorial Day has since become synonymous with the beginning of summer. But, there are still some formal rituals that take place during the federal holiday. Every Memorial Day, the American flag must be hung at half-staff until noon. After that, it must be raised to the top of the staff. Additionally, Americans are encouraged to take a pause at 3 p.m. local time as a National Moment of Remembrance.
The Origin of the Poppy
In addition to visiting cemeteries and memorials, some Americans also wear a red poppy on Memorial Day. This began with a World War I poem penned by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. The poem, titled “In Flanders Field,” speaks of fallen soldiers buried underneath poppy-covered grounds. Today, Americans wear the red poppy as a way of remembering fallen personnel of the United States armed forces.
It is a custom for the President (or Vice President) of the United States to deliver a speech every Memorial Day. Traditionally, the President or VP gives this speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier located at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Truth About Memorial Day
Memorial Day isn’t just a day to have off and have fun at the pool. It is an important part of American history and holds military significance. As you participate in pool games or an outdoor BBQ, take a moment to remember those who have given their lives in the services of the U.S. armed forces. These Memorial Day facts should help you gain a deeper understanding of the holiday.
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