As many Americans will spend Memorial Day weekend unofficially kicking off the summer by spending time with family, soaking up the sun at lakes and pools, and enjoying a backyard barbeque, we wanted to bring you 9 facts to honor the holiday and remember the men and women who have served our country and sacrificed their lives.
- Memorial Day began as a response to the Civil War
The Civil War (1861-1865) saw a death toll of about 620,000 soldiers on both sides – making it the deadliest war in American history. This immense loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the country led to many responses to commemorate the soldiers.
- The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on May 30, 1922
On this day in 1922, William Howard Taft, a former president who at the time was chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and president of the Lincoln Memorial Commission, dedicated the structure, which stands on the west end of the National Mall. Taft presented it to President Warren Harding, who accepted it on behalf of the American people.
- Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day
In 1868, Gen. John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed Decoration Day. To honor the deceased, soldiers would decorate graves of their fallen comrades with flowers, flags, and wreaths.
- It wasn’t always the last Monday in May
Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 for decades, but in 1971, Congress established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May and a federal holiday.
- A Moment of Remembrance is Established
President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act on Dec. 28, 2000, designating 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because 3 p.m. “is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.”
- The birthplace of Memorial Day is recognized
Even though numerous communities had been independently celebrating Memorial Day for years, the federal government declared Waterloo, New York the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo first celebrated the holiday on May 5, 1866.
- A flowering symbol of remembrance
Red poppies are known as a symbol of remembrance and it’s a tradition to wear them to honor those who have died in war. In 1915, following the Second Battle of Ypres, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a physician with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, wrote the poem, “In Flanders Fields.” Its opening lines refer to the fields of poppies that grew among the soldiers’ graves in Flanders.
- The longest-running parade
Since 1868, Doylestown, Pennsylvania has held annual Memorial Day parades which claim to be the nation’s oldest continuously running. Many communities across the country celebrate Memorial Day with parades featuring Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and Veteran service members participating,
- Rules for the flag
On Memorial Day, the American flag is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position where it remains until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.
Bonus Fact: the Friday before Memorial Day is one of the busiest days for closing on a home.
We wish everyone a safe Memorial Day and will be remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for their country.