For many years now, Memorial Day has been thought of as the unofficial start of the summer season. Around the country, people throw parties, host cookouts and open their pools to welcome in the warmer weather, and there are usually city festivals, parades and other events to celebrate the long weekend, too. Plus, you can’t forget about all the big sales going on at retail stores and car dealerships!
However, Memorial Day is actually about much more than barbecues and sales. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance; a day to honor those who have fallen while serving our country.
Memorial Day History and Facts You Might Not Know
Today, the true meaning of Memorial Day has been somewhat set aside. As we get ready to celebrate this year on Monday, May 30th, what better way to prepare than to learn a bit of Memorial Day history you may not have known before?
- Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. Even though the term Memorial Day was used as far back as the 1880s, it was known as Decoration Day for over a century. This is because every year to honor the deceased, soldiers would decorate the graves of fallen comrades with wreaths, flowers and flags.
- It was originally celebrated on the day we’ll celebrate this year, May 30th. Today, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May, but in the beginning, the holiday was observed every year on May 30th.
- Future president James A. Garfield gave a very lengthy speech on the first Memorial Day. On the first Memorial Day held on May 30th, 1868, Garfield, then a Civil War general and Republican congressman, addressed several thousand people at Arlington National Cemetery. One of the famous lines from his speech was: “If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.”
- Several towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While only one town has received the official seal of approval from the U.S. government as the birthplace of Memorial Day – a tiny town in upstate New York called Waterloo – more than 20 different cities all claim they celebrated first, including Boalsburg, Pennsylvania and Carbondale, Illinois.
- It wasn’t an official federal holiday until 1971. For more than 50 years, Memorial Day commemorated only those fallen soldiers from the Civil War. It wasn’t until World War I that it was expanded to include those killed in all wars, and wasn’t recognized officially until 1971 when the U.S. was still in the middle of the Vietnam War.
- Certain customs are observed every Memorial Day. There is no “official” ceremony on Memorial Day, however, many states and cities will honor the holiday by flying all flags at half-staff until noon, raising it again at sunset. Also, since the year 2000, there’s a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m., when all Americans are asked to pause for a moment from whatever they’re doing in an act of national unity.
American Senior Communities would like to take a moment to honor and remember all those who have fallen while serving our country this coming Memorial Day. May everyone have a safe and Happy Memorial Day weekend!
For more information about American Senior Communities, please visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com.