Memorial Day in the United States: How this holiday came to be

When most people think about Memorial Day in the United States, they often think about barbecues, family get-togethers, and enjoying the last few days of summer. But Memorial Day has another aspect to it that many people don't know much (if anything) about — its history. Let's take a look at some facts and origins of Memorial Day as well as some other interesting bits of info relating to this day.


The First Memorial Day

The first Memorial Day was held on May 30th, 1865 at the Gettysburg Battlefield. It was held to honor those who died during the Civil War. The event was organized by Sarah Blackford and Anna Mott Davidson who were both widows of Union soldiers killed in battle. They wanted to honor their husbands and other fallen soldiers by placing flowers on their gravesites. They also wanted to provide a place for families to remember their loved ones who had died during the war.

(Image Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons)

The idea spread quickly and soon became an annual tradition in many areas throughout the country. Within five years after its inception, Memorial Day had been celebrated across fifteen states and territories including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and Nebraska among others."


An Interesting Fact About Memorial Day

Memorial Day has been officially recognized as an official holiday since 1971; however, it wasn't always called Memorial Day or held on the last Monday of May. The roots of this holiday date back all the way back to 1868 when General John Logan designated May 30th as "Decoration Day" to honor those who had died during the Civil War.


Who Is Honored On Memorial Day? Memorial Day is a holiday that honors those who have died in service to the United States of America. This includes members of the armed forces, as well as police officers, firefighters, and other first responders.

Memorial Day was first established in 1865 after the Civil War ended, but originally it wasn't observed on May 30th. It was observed on May 5th instead — right in the middle of summer, when most people were not thinking about death and remembrance.


In 1971, Congress changed Memorial Day's date to be observed on the last Monday in May so that it could be more widely known and celebrated by all Americans. Today, Memorial Day is one of our nation's most important holidays because it celebrates those who have died for our country and reminds us what it means to be an American.


How Did Memorial Day Become A National Holiday?

Memorial Day was inspired by the many Civil War memorials that were being built across the country at that time.

The holiday was officially recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. He proclaimed it a federal holiday and established "Memorial Day" as its official name.


How do Americans Honor their Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day?

One of the most common ways that Americans pay tribute to their fallen heroes is by visiting cemeteries or memorials located near where they live or work. Many people will visit these locations during Memorial Day weekend, but there are many other opportunities throughout the year when one can visit these sites as well. Sometimes people will attend ceremonies at these local cemeteries where flags are flown at half-staff until noon (or later if requested by family members).

At these ceremonies, there may be speeches given by military officials or elected officials about why Memorial Day is so important and why we should continue to honor those who served their country by protecting them from harm whenever possible. 


Another common way for Americans to pay tribute to their fallen heroes is by hosting a barbecue at home or at work on Memorial Day weekend or any other day throughout the year that falls close to this holiday's date. 

Creator: Patrick Allen Reynolds  |  Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
(Creator: Patrick Allen Reynolds Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

These barbecues can take place indoors or outdoors depending on what works best for your family members' schedules, preferences, and needs. Some people choose not to host barbecues because it can be difficult finding time away from work during this busy time with so many families coming together after spending weeks apart due to summer vacation plans (such as going away camping).


A lot of people don't realize that Memorial Day is meant to celebrate both living veterans and those who have passed on. It's not just about remembering those who have been lost—it's also about honoring those who are still here today by showing gratitude and appreciation for their service.

There are a ton of special commemorative gifts one can order online like personalized apparel, flowers, patriotic accessories, silver service starts, and more!
 “Memorial Day Gift Guide for Veterans” 


So there you have it—a brief history of Memorial Day, as well as some fun facts surrounding this day. It's always fascinating to learn about the history behind one of our country's most recognized and celebrated holidays. And what better way than from the comfort of your own home or office?


Remember to regard this day as a day of reflection, a day to remember the lives of those who fought and died for their country. Also, don’t forget to appreciate the sacrifices and the patriotism of all the men and women who are still alive and continue serving our country so we can enjoy this freedom and peace we now have.

So, if you're planning on celebrating Memorial Day with friends, family, or coworkers over the upcoming holiday weekend, don't forget why this day is important. Happy Memorial Day!

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