What is Memorial Day?

What is Memorial Day? - Iron Bean Coffee Company

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1. Started as a response to the Civil War.

To date, what's considered the most tragic war on American soil is the Civil War. With about 620,000 casualties, its effects led to the practice of honoring and commemorating all fallen service members.

Memorial Day is believed to have started in 1864 when women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, laid flowers on the graves of the service members who lost their lives during the Battle of Gettysburg. In the following years, more women carried on the commemoration in both Union and Confederate states.

2. Was made an official tradition by Major General John A. Logan.

General Logan was a war veteran and commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. On May 5, 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, Gen. Logan issued General Order No. 11. This order declared May 30 as the official date to observe Decoration Day and encourage people from both North and South to place flowers on the graves of their relatives, friends, or comrades who fell during the war.

The first official National Decoration Day ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. More than 5,000 people participated including the Grand Army of the Republic and other local groups from both north and south states.

3. Originally known as Decoration Day.

Based on the practice of women who started it, Memorial Day was once known as Decoration Day, when both women and veterans in small towns would decorate graves of fallen Civil War service members with flowers and plants. It was in the 1960s when Decoration Day started to transition to Memorial Day.

4.  Was exclusive to fallen service members of the Civil War.

Decoration Day was solely to commemorate troops who died during the Civil War, until World War I.

World War I was America's major first conflict since the Civil War. More than 116,000 Americans died in this war, which caused the change in the Decoration Day tradition. Since then, we now include all service members who died in all wars fought both in domestic and foreign lands.

5. Was not an official holiday until 1968

Years have passed and multiple simultaneous ceremonies have been held all over the country but Memorial Day still wasn't recognized as a federal holiday. It was only made an official holiday in 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and established that Memorial Day was to be commemorated on the last Monday of May. This change went into effect in 1971.

6. What day Memorial Day is observed.

As decreed by Gen. Logan, Memorial Day was original to be held every May 30 annually. But because the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, was changed to the Last Monday of May as a way to give people a three-day weekend and boost the economy. Many veteran groups were concerned that more Americans associate the holiday with a long weekend vacation instead of its original purpose of honoring fallen war service members. This is why some of them continue to lobby for a return of the holiday to May 30.

7. Where Memorial Day originated is still a hot topic

A few towns claim to be the official birthplace of Memorial Day. People from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania consider the event in 1864 as the first-ever Memorial Day practice but residents of Carbondale, Illinois also says that have a claim to it because of a parade held in 1866, led by General Logan.
But not one of the above-mentioned places was recognized as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Instead, the government recognized the small village of Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace because of the more than 100 years of community-wide celebrations that were held there. 

8. Observe a moment of silence.

In addition to the Memorial Day tradition, Congress created the National Moment of Remembrance to be observed at 3 pm. local time. Even if you're busy grilling steaks or enjoying a friendly chat, when the clock strikes at 3 pm, you need to pause for one minute and remember those who have died in military service to the United States.

9. Rules for flying the American Flag

If you have a flag pole in your yard, take note that the rules for flying the American Flag are different on Memorial Day. Because this holiday honors fallen service members, your flag should be flying at half-staff from morning until noon. By noontime, the flag should be raised to full staff until it's taken down at sunset.

10. Never to be confused with Veteran's Day.
Memorial Day is a day to honor and remember our fallen heroes and only them. Although it may not be inappropriate, it's important to give distinction to Memorial Day and Veteran's Day so we can preserve the traditions and not confuse future generations.

A revered tradition of Memorial Day is the President of the United States placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For decades, presidents visited the hallowed site as a way to pay tribute to all of those who died fighting for their country. In addition to laying a wreath, the president, or a dignitary in his place, will deliver an address for the nearby amphitheater. 

Celebrate by observing the national moment of silence. At 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, Americans are asked to pause for one minute to pay tribute to America's fallen soldiers. This became official after the passage of the The National Moment of Remembrance Act in 2000

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