There are certain holidays that we as Americans have forgotten the history behind them. We see them as an opportunity to celebrate, throw a BBQ, get together with friends and family and watch a parade go by. Memorial Day is one such holiday.
Ask yourself this question, do your kids know what Memorial Day actually is or is it just a day off from school to have fun?
The History of Memorial Day
What Initiated the Start of Memorial Day?
Memorial Day was initialing started after the loss of soldiers in the Civil War. Brother fought against brother as the Northern United States fought the Southern United States. There were over 600,000 lives lost during the bloodiest war in U.S. history that lasted 4 years.
When Did Memorial Day Start?
The first celebration was held in Waterloo, New York (known as the birthplace of Memorial Day) on May 5, 1866.
However, it wasn’t called Memorial Day at that time. From 1866 until 1968 the holiday was known as “Decoration Day.” The first observance of “Decoration Day” was held at the Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868 while President Ulysses S. Grant was in office.
Why was Memorial Day First Called “Decoration Day”?
The holiday was first known as, “Decoration Day” because the families of fallen soldiers would decorate their graves with flowers.
Who Started Memorial Day?
General John Logan was the first to recognize the holiday on May 30, 1868 and General James Garfield gave the speech. The holiday would be celebrated each year on the 30th of May until 1971.
The first state to recognize “Decoration Day” was New York and Mississippi was the first southern state to recognize the holiday.
When Was the Holiday ‘Memorial Day’ Recognized Officially?
Federal law, (the Uniform Monday Holiday Act), declared the name, Memorial Day, official in 1971. At the same time it was declared a National Holiday to be celebrated on the 5th Monday of May each year. President Lyndon B. Johnson was presiding when this law was enacted.
Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is a time to remember all of the American soldiers who died in battle or that died of wounds received in battle.
Who Takes Care of the American Flags at the Arlington National Cemetery?
The 3rd US Infantry places American Flags at each of the graves in the Arlington National Cemetery the Thursday prior to Memorial Day each year. This “Flags In” tradition has been in place since 1948. They then patrol the cemetery 24 hours a day throughout the entire Memorial Day weekend.
What are Memorial Day Customs?
- The flying of the American Flag at Half Staff until Noon on Memorial Day
- The raising of the American Flat to the top of the pole at sunset
- A bugler playing Taps
The National Moment of Silence Act was signed by President Bill Clinton and Congress in 2000. Every American is asked to observe a moment of silence at 3pm in memory of soldiers who died in battle and those who didn’t come home.
What’s the Difference Between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day?
The Memorial Day holiday is when we pause and remember each of the American soldiers that we’ve lost in battle. While Veteran’s Day is a time to thank and remember all of the members of the US military that have served honorably to provide our freedom at a great cost to them and their families.
The Story of Memorial Day Red Poppies
In 1915 a woman named, Moina Michael was inspired by Lieutenant-General John McCrae’s poem, “In Flander’s Field” and penned one of her own…
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
— Moina Michael
She was the first person to wear a Red Poppy on Memorial Day in member of the heroes lost in battle. Moina began selling Red Poppies to friends and family to raise money for soldiers in need.
In 1922, the VFW was the first organization to nationally sell poppies to be worn on Memorial Day in memory of American soldiers lost in battle. A couple of years later, they began selling artificial red poppies that were created by disabled veterans.
The first factory that created the artificial red poppies was started in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1924. They started it to assist disabled and unemployed veterans and provide a reliable source of poppies for the Memorial Day holiday.
A Few More Memorial Day Facts…
- The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on May 30, 1922 by former President William Howard Taft.
- Every Memorial Day a group of motorcyclists ride in the Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run bringing awareness and accountability to POWs and MIAs left behind.
- The southern states – Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina observe a separate Confederate Memorial Day in honor of Southerners who died in the Civil War.
History of Memorial Day Videos
It is important that we do not forget what the Memorial Day holiday is about. Often we get caught up celebrating, eating BBQ and having fun with family and friends and neglect the need of remembrance on Memorial Day.
This year, I encourage you to set an alarm on Memorial Day for 3pm to have a moment of silence. In this moment, say prayer for those who have lost loved ones in wars and thank God for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to give us the freedom we often take for granted.
How does your family take time on Memorial Day to remember the soldiers we’ve lost in war?