The last Monday in the month of May is Memorial Day, although in the past, this was held on various dates, including May 30 of each year. This is thanks to an act of Congress called the National Holiday Act of 1971, thereby creating a three-day weekend to end the month of May. It is a federal holiday in America, which means it is a non-working holiday.
Memorial Day is truly about the bravery of American soldiers throughout history and all over the world. The holiday traces its roots to the American Civil War. In the 19th century, it was recognized as a day of remembrance of the fallen soldiers during the civil war. However, over the years, it has evolved to include all American soldiers in any part of the world.
There are various accounts as to the actual origin of Memorial Day, although it is widely accepted that this holiday was a result of the American Civil War. Given the many loss of soldier’s lives during the civil war, towns and cities all over the country were looking for a way to honor their dead. Women and children would go to the graves of the confederate soldiers to decorate the gravestones and markers with flowers and ribbons.
|Memorial Day (observed) Central Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery|
By 1865, the Federal government started designating national cemeteries for military families to bury their dead. It is believed that Charleston, South Carolina was the first city to have some type of Memorial Day observance. The first Decoration Day of the city was held on May 1, 1865, thanks to the efforts of the country’s African American population and a number of women’s groups.
The freed slaves, called Freedmen, were the ones who landscaped and prepared the burial grounds. Some 3,000 school aged children participated, along with members of different women’s groups, Union soldiers, ministers and missionaries, so that the number of people present reached close to ten thousand.
First Memorial Day
The first official Memorial Day was declared on May 5, 1868. The national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, General John Logan, issued General Order No. 11, which stated that May 30, 1868 as the day of observance for the fallen heroes of the Army, to be called Decoration Day. In honor of the day, gravestones of both confederate and union soldiers in 183 cemeteries in 27 states of the Union were decorated with flowers.
In 1873, New York became the first State of the Union to officially recognize this honorable holiday. Within three years, all the northern states had recognized it as a holiday. However, the southern states remained steadfast in holding their own Decoration Day holiday apart from the northern states.
A holiday for all American soldiers
However, this all changed after World War I. After the war, the holiday evolved to celebrate not only the fallen soldiers of the civil war, but also all American soldiers who have fought in any war in any part of the world for the good of the nation.
|Memorial Day 2011 in downtown Denver|
After World War II, the name of the holiday had changed to Memorial Day. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, NY as the official birthplace of this holiday. By 1967, Memorial Day was taken as the official name of the holiday.
Today, this is the designated holiday to remember all the country’s brave soldiers who have died in service of the nation. All American soldiers and families, regardless of ethnicity, take a moment to celebrate the holiday.
The south celebrates
Although Memorial Day is a federal holiday, some southern states still continue to have their own celebration to honor the confederate soldiers. In Texas, it is January 19 while it is on May 10 for South Carolina. For Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Georgia, the Confederate war heroes are remembered on April 26. Finally, Louisiana and Tennessee honor the dead of the Civil War on June 3, which also coincides as the birthday of President Jefferson Davis.
There are many activities done to usher in the holiday. Many homes put up an American flag. The nation’s flag is often raised at half-staff starting at dawn to noontime. Gravesites in national cemeteries all over the country are also decorated with small American flags.
|Memorial Day 2011|
Parades and concerts are also held in various cities. The biggest concert for the holiday is the National Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol Building in Washington. Since 1911, the Indianapolis 500 or Indy 500 has been an auto race that has occurred sometime around the season. The Coca Cola 600 is another event, as well as the Memorial tournament for golf.
|Memorial Day Commemoration 2008|
The start of summer
For Americans, Memorial Day is the mark of the start of the summer season. This means it’s time to bring out the barbeque, fire up the grill, enjoy the warmer weather and commemorate the long weekend with a delicious outdoor celebration. When it comes to fashion, it signifies that women can once again wear the color white.
For retailers, it’s also a great reason to bring shoppers in the stores because some of the biggest sales of the year are on Memorial Day. Memorial Day weekend sales are typically the best time of the year to buy mattresses and box springs, party supplies, white appliances such as refrigerators and even vacuum cleaners, as well as picnic and barbecue supplies. With all the sales, malls and other retailers are filled with shoppers taking advantage of the great deals.
Memorial Day is celebrated in the United States and wherever this is an American presence in the world. It’s a holiday that celebrates courage, bravery and honor, which are words and ideals that are respected in any language in the world.
Photo Credits: Memorial Day, Memorial Day (observed), Memorial Day 2011 in downtown Denver, Memorial Day 2011, Memorial Day Commemoration 2008