The long holiday weekend is more than just the kick off to the summer season! Memorial Day has been a longstanding tradition dating back to the Civil War. What started as a day to remember fallen soldiers by decorating their headstones is now more known for cookouts, laying poolside, and relaxing. This Memorial Day weekend as you unwind and start the kick off to summer, remember these 4 interesting facts about the history of Memorial Day.
1) It Used to be Called Decoration Day
It started as a practice to decorate headstones of fallen soldiers with flowers, wreaths, and other memorabilia. The name Memorial Day dates back to 1882 but was not Federally recognized as such until 1967 when Memorial Day as the official name was enacted. Today, we still honor this tradition by dressing our homes and businesses in American memorabilia and honoring our friends, family, and community members who have served.
2) It was Originated to Honor Civil War Soldiers
Some 620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War. The loss of life and the impact on communities left large holes in the communities of both sides. Despite the glaring differences between the North and the South, Americans still wanted to try to find a way to honor our soldiers; they were our brothers, sisters, cousins, and neighbors after all. Taking a day to decorate and honor those who lost their lives helped to bring relief and peace to the communities who suffered loss and even those communities who did not.
3) The President Usually Gives A Speech
It’s customary for the president to address the nation on Memorial Day. This speech is usually given at The Tomb of Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Today, Congress releases a yearly Memorial Day Speech fact sheet which gives a brief introduction and history, CRS Reports, Presidential Proclamations, gives tips on what us average Americans can do on this day to help honor and celebrate. You can read the full fact sheet here at this link.
4) Originally Only Civil War Soldiers were honored
Because Memorial Day began as a way to honor Civil War vets, it mostly stayed that way until WWI. After WWI, though, the holiday began to encompass members of the American armed forces who had fallen in any conflict.
How You Can Help Honor and Celebrate Memorial Day
The Congress Memorial Day Speech fact sheet hosts a great list of things you can do to help celebrate and honor those who have served and fallen this memorial day. Here are a few ways you can help!
- Assist veterans with the placement of flags on grave stones in cemeteries and distribute flags to people participating in parades. The American flag may also be flown or hung outdoors at an individual’s home
- Purchase artificial poppies. The donations are used to help veterans and their widows, widowers, and children
- Create care packages for families of fallen soldiers
- Attend a parade
- Thank your local vet
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