There’s no real rhyme or reason to when Memorial Day transformed from a very special holiday about veterans to the opening of the summer season. Many schools mark the end of their year by Memorial Day. Stores offer sales in honor of the holiday. The original meaning of Memorial Day is much different. Here’s how it got started and why it’s so important, even today.
Civil War Heritage
The Civil War marked a turning point in how Americans responded to death. It was customary before the War to mark graves and remember loved ones. The death of President Lincoln was one factor in changing how people looked at remembering those who died. Another factor that led towards the creation of Memorial Day was the vast number of people killed in the War. There were so many unmarked graves of soldiers during this time.
A number of cities and towns attempt to call themselves the beginning of Memorial Day, but two stories are probably the most accurate. In the North, Union soldiers organized together in Decatur, Illinois to honor soldiers’ graves with flowers and decorations. They called this day, “Decoration Day.” It was first celebrated in 1868.
In 1966, President Johnson signed the Memorial Day proclamation in which Waterloo, New York was announced as the birthplace of Memorial Day. No matter where it started, the intent of the day was essentially the same. It was to honor those who gave their life in service to their country.
Which Holiday Celebrates Who?
There are a number of holidays that honor service members. Memorial Day is the day for remembering those who died in military service. The traditional celebration is to gather on the day and clean up and decorate the graves of those who died. Families might have a picnic or a religious service. Memorial Day shouldn’t be confused with Veterans Day, which is the day to honor those veterans who serve and are currently serving. Labor Day, which marks the end of the summer season, is held to honor all working individuals.
Take time this Memorial Day to remember the individuals in your family who served in one of the many conflicts over the last century. Sure, go on vacation and enjoy the beginning of summer. Don’t forget the reason Memorial Day is celebrated as you go about your BBQ or day in the sun.
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