Home » History of Legends » What Is Memorial Day? The History and Meaning of This Federal Holiday


In honor of Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, here are five tidbits that you may not have known regarding the history and meaning of this federal United States holiday.

1. Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who have died while in the military service. It began three years after the Civil War ended, when the head of an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time to decorate the graves of those who died in war with flowers. It is believed that May 30 was chosen because, at this time, flowers are in bloom all over the country. After World War I, it was expanded to honor all those people who died in American wars.

2. The tradition of decorating graves began in 1864 when Boalsburn, PA women began putting flowers on the graves of their own Civil War dead. They decorated the graves of the other war dead in summer and fall. The tradition continues still today with families and friends of American veterans decorating graves on Memorial Day.

3. In January 1971, when the “Monday Holiday Law” was passed, Memorial Day was changed from May 30 to the last Monday in May. Today, many Americans enjoy a three-day Memorial weekend from work and school while commemorating the men and women who have died in the military. Without their dedication to our country, we may not have the freedom to do so, and for that we can be grateful.

4. Wherever you are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution encourages all Americans to pause what you are doing.Honor those who have died in the service by offering a minute of silence at this time. “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day,” Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states.

5. On Memorial Day, the American flag should be at half-staff from sunrise until noon only. Then it should be briskly raised to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of the men and women who have died while in the military. Until March 1, 1954, there were no regulations for the flying of the flag at half-staff and, therefore, many conflicting policies; this is when President Dwight Eisenhower made the proclamation on the proper times.

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