How much do you know about Memorial Day? As we ponder the selfless sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces, we hope that you will join us in reflecting upon the meaning of this day, and the lives lost to protect our freedom.
It is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
The holiday originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
Did you know?
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance in honor of the fallen men and women who died in service to our nation. Because the holiday tradition includes decorating fallen soldiers’ graves with flowers and flags, the day was formally known as Decoration Day.
Dozens of cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day.
Though it is difficult to conclusively verify the holiday’s origin, in May of 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson named Waterloo, New York the official birthplace. Waterloo—which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
Memorial Day originated at the end of the Civil War.
The war, which claimed more lives than any war in our nation’s history, ended in the spring of 1865. The day became a federal holiday in 1971.
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.
Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem.
National Moment of Silence
A national moment of silence is observed every Memorial Day at 3:00 p.m. local time to reflect on the lives of the fallen. The origin of this tradition is unclear.
Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations.
Many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.
What is the difference?
Veterans Day is distinct from Memorial Day. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who have died while in military service.
Source: History.com and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. For information about how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is working year-round to honor and empower our nation’s veterans, visit HireOurHeroes.org.