Many people regard Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer in America. Every year on the last Monday of May, the holiday is a time for dressing up in patriotic colors, grilling food on the grill, splashing around at pool parties, enjoying the long weekend in your Texas Apartment — and, of course, taking the day off work. While these festivities make for joyous occasions, the holiday’s history is steeped in much more solemn traditions.
Here are some Memorial Day facts that you should know.
- Memorial Day Was Originally Called ‘Decoration Day’
Back in the day, soldiers, families, and relatives would decorate the graves of their fallen comrades or family with flowers, flags, and wreaths to honor the deceased that is why it is called Decoration Day. Although Memorial Day became an official holiday in the 1880s, it wasn’t legally recognized as such until 1967.
- The holiday started after the Civil War.
According to history by the time the Civil War ended in the spring of 1865, it had claimed the lives of so many soldiers — a devastating 620,000, the most of any conflict in American history — the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries was made due to it. Americans in different locations started to hold rituals every last Monday of May to honor the fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers, flags, and more.
- May 30 Was Chosen as the Observation Day Because Flowers Are in Bloom
Logan, the head of an organization of Union veterans, famously said “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,”. Hence why May 30 is the chosen date as the day to observe Decoration Day because flowers would be in bloom nationwide. Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday of May to ensure long weekends.
- Waterloo, New York is considered the birthplace of Memorial Day
Although the birthplace of the Memorial Day remains a continuous debate, with other towns claiming the title of it, In 1966, former President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York the official “birthplace” of the holiday.
- There is a Proper Way to Raise the Flag
On Memorial Day, the proper way to raise the flag is to first raise it quickly to the top, then slowly lower it to half-mast until noon, then back to the top or full mast for the rest of the day. This is done in honor of our fallen heroes during the nation’s battle.