Monday May 17, 2021
On Monday, May 31st, Americans across the country will be remembering the courageous men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country. While the practice of honoring those we have lost in battle dates back thousands of years, the first Decoration Day, aka Memorial Day wasn’t held in the United States until the late 19th century.
Curious to learn more about Memorial Day? Here are some interesting facts and historical tidbits about this official federal holiday.
Memorial Day Had a Different Name
Initially known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originally honored those who lost their lives while fighting in the Civil War. After the United States became involved in World War I, Memorial Day evolved to commemorate the American military personnel who died in all wars.
The First Memorial Day Event Took Place in Virginia
The first Memorial Day ceremony was held on May 30, 1868. About 5,000 people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to hear future President James A. Garfield speak, and to decorate the graves (hence the original name) of the Union and Confederate soldiers that were lost in battle.
Memorial Day Didn’t Always Fall on a Monday
Did you know that Memorial Day wasn’t always celebrated on the last Monday of May? When General John A. Logan officially launched this day of remembrance, he called for it to be observed on May 30. After the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect in 1971, it was shifted to the final Monday of May to give federal employees a three-day weekend.
Memorial Day Traditions Have Evolved
On Memorial Day, it’s become customary to fly the flag at half-staff until noon, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset. In 2000, Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to take a moment of silence for one minute at 3 P.M. in an act of national unity.
The Red Poppy Is a Symbol of Resilience
Have you ever seen anyone wearing a red poppy on Memorial Day? This originated from John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields, about his grief of losing close friends in battle, and how he saw the red poppies on the battlefield as tiny beacons of hope. The resilient and beautiful red poppy became the national emblem of remembrance in 1920.
We are forever grateful to our fallen heroes who bravely gave their lives for this country, and we want to thank them for their courage and selflessness.