Memorial Day 2014 falls on Monday, May 26. The day pays tribute to men and women who lost their lives as members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Memorial Day Is a Federal Holiday
Memorial Day was first observed as a federal holiday in 1971 after the 1968 Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect.
Memorial Day is always held on the last Monday in May.
2. Its Roots Trace to After The Civil War
Memorial Day originally started as Decoration Day, officially established in 1868 by the the Grand Army of the Republic. On Decoration Day, volunteers went to the graves of those lost in the Civil War and decorated the graves with flowers. The holiday originated in May because it was believed the nation’s flowers would be in bloom at that time.
3. Memorial Day Was ‘Born’ in New York State
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Waterloo, New York, is the official birthplace of Memorial Day.
Located 50 miles west of Syracuse, New York, Waterloo received the designation from President Johnson in 1966. While many communities claim the first observance of Decoration Day or Memorial Day, Waterloo’s May 5, 1866, holiday included the closure of businesses, and flags flown at half-staff — a formal event reminiscent of today’s traditions.
4. People Observe Memorial Day With a National Moment of Silence
President Clinton established the National Moment of Remembrance, which created a moment of silence on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time to honor fallen members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The moment of silence began in 2000.
5. Memorial Day Is the Unofficial Start of Summer
Memorial Day is commonly regarded as the kickoff to the summer season and is often celebrated with parades and barbecues. Some of the biggest parades in the country occur in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.