Memorial Day is May 26 this year. The holiday always falls on the last Monday in May, but this wasn’t always the case.
Here’s the Memorial Day history you need to know:
1. Memorial Day Became a Federal Holiday in 1971
The Uniform Holiday Act declared Memorial Day a federal holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May in 1968. The act took effect in 1971. The Uniform Holiday act also decided Columbus Day would be celebrated on the second Monday in October and George Washington’s birthday be celebrated on the third Monday in February.
The celebration of federal holidays on Mondays ensures three-day weekends for American workers.
2. Memorial Day Was ‘Born’ in New York
According to The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, President Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1968. Waterloo was declared the birthplace because on May 5, 1866, a ceremony was held to honor Civil War veterans in which businesses closed and flags were lowered to half mast. Supporters of Waterloo’s right to the title claim the town was the first to honor veterans formally.
3. Memorial Day Used to Be Decoration Day
Before Memorial Day was established as a national holiday, it used to be referred to as Decoration Day. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan was the keynote speaker at the first formal observance of fallen Civil War soldiers in Carbondale, Illinois, on April 29, 1866. On May 5, 1868, Logan declared Decoration Day a time for the nation to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers as the acting commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, according to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Logan’s declaration stated Decoration Day should be observed May 30 because all the nation’s flowers would be in bloom.
Today, the holiday pays tribute to all American veterans who died in service to the country.
4. Some States Hold Observances for Confederate Soldiers
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, several Southern states hold their own observances for fallen Confederate soldiers. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday in April, while Confederate Memorial Day in North and South Carolina is May 10.
5. A National Moment of Remembrance Is Held Every Year
According to The History Channel, a national moment of remembrance is held every year at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day. The national moment of remembrance started in 2000 after President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act into law, according to The American Presidency Project.
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