There are so many holidays which are celebrated every year. The ones most people enjoy the most are those which spread over two or three days. Quite often, however, after years of being celebrated people often forget the meaning behind the holidays. Knowing the history of Memorial Day may encourage people to do more than look for special sales or a reason to have a day off of work.
Most people don’t realize that the idea for Memorial Day began way back during the Civil War. During that war, over 620,000 soldiers died and people spontaneously held tributes in honor of the fallen, both for the North and the South.
Women in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania placed flowers on the gravestones of those who had fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. In 1865, women did the same in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Carbondale, Illinois became the first organized Memorial Day ceremony held community-wide in April 1866. Major General John A. Logan, a Union hero, was the principle speaker at this event.
Carbondale was the first organized commemoration but Waterloo, New York was given the distinction of being the “birthplace of Memorial Day” because they have held annual celebrations since May 5, 1866.
The holiday was first known as Decoration Day because people placed flowers and flags on the graves of fallen soldiers from both sides of the war. It was called Memorial Day as early as 1882 but it wasn’t declared “Memorial Day” by Federal law until 1967. The holiday was moved from May 30th to the last Monday of the month in 1971.
Traditionally Memorial Day is honored by flying the American flag at half-staff until noon. The flag is then raised to the top of the flagpole until sunset. The song Taps, a 24-note bugle call, is often played during memorial services and at military funerals.
You may often see people sporting red paper poppies on Memorial Day. This began in 1915 when a Georgia teacher suggested using the poppy as a symbol to pay tribute to the veterans. Since that time, the Veterans of Foreign Wars has supported the sale of poppies.
In recent years, it seems the holiday is simply another day off of work, the perfect time to enjoy the beginning of the summer season and the first barbecue of the year, and a time to find great sales. Congress enacted a National Moment of Remembrance in 2000 at 3:00 p.m. Americans are asked to pause for one minute of silence as an act of national solidarity.
Although Memorial Day was begun to honor the fallen soldiers from the Civil War, it is now a day to honor the memory of soldiers from every war and military conflict. Families often pay tribute to their family members who have served in the military, regardless of whether they know the history of Memorial Day or not.