7 Things about Memorial Day

 In Cultural Immersion

Memorial Day is not just about barbecues, beaching and a little flag waving.  This American tradition has solemn and important origins.  It dates back to 1864 when women in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania placed flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. They wanted to honor the men of this abolitionist community who had died fighting for the Union Army. This and other facts about an American holiday are helpful for understanding how it all started and became the Memorial Day we celebrate today.

Memorial Day Facts

  1. Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day, a day when citizens of the USA decorated the graves of departed comrades on both sides of the Civil War – Unionist and Confederate soldiers – with flowers, wreaths and flags.
  2. Memorial Day is one of 10 Federal Holidays. As a Federal Holiday created by Congress in 1882, at first the holiday only applied to Federal employees and the District of Columbia.
  3. It became a holiday enjoyed by everyone through declarations enacted by each state. With New York designating it a holiday in 1873, and other northern ex-Confederacy states adopting the holiday in the 1890’s
  4. The Southern, ex-Unionist states did not adopt this holiday until after World War 1, when the day became one in which fallen soldiers from both the Civil War on both sides and those who died fighting for the USA in WW1 were honored.
  5. In 1971 the date of Memorial Day was moved from May 30 to the last Monday of the month of May. This was the Monday Holiday Law.
  6. Of the many customs that have been folded into the way Memorial Day is celebrated, one is that the flag is flown half-staff until noon, after which it is raised to the top of the staff until sunset.
  7. In 2000, Congress enacted a National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day. American observe one minute of silence at 3 p.m. on that day as an act of solemn remembrance and national unity.

There are so many interesting ways to celebrate and enjoy this American holiday and to honor those who sacrificed their lives for their country. Check your city listings for all the Memorial Day events occurring near you.

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