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Decoration Day to Memorial Day

Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday in May, honors the men and women who died while serving in the military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War.

Some records show that one of the earliest Memorial Day commemorations was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.

Nevertheless, the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo 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.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month, 30th of May, 1868. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there.

Decoration Day gradually came to be known as Memorial Day to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

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. Whatever you do this Memorial Day, take time to remember those who never made it out of their uniform.

Memorial Day Activities & Events to Honor Those Who Died

  • Visit cemeteries and memorials.

  • Attend Memorial Day ceremonies.

  • Volunteer to place an American Flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

  • Observe a minute of silence at 3:00 PM, local time.

  • Attend a Memorial Day parade, festival, fair or concert such as the National Memorial Day Concert.

  • Run for charity on Memorial Day weekend.

  • Volunteer to support events such as the National Memorial Day Parade.

  • Donate to veterans and military support groups.

  • Wear Blue.


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