Historical story

The story of Memorial Day in the United States

Memorial Day is just around the corner. It will be celebrated 30 th May this year. Some associate this day with being the unofficial start of summer. Others see it as a good day to shop and hurry to the shops to buy goods for sale. However, the day means a lot more than that.

In today's post, we will discover what Memorial Day is really about. We will find out why and when it became a holiday and explore more about the history before we finally see how the day is celebrated around the country.

What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. It is a day reserved to honor the United States Armed Forces personnel who sacrificed their lives for the country's freedom and integrity. It recognizes and remembers both fallen soldiers in all American wars.

On this day, people stop and reflect on how brave American soldiers devoted their lives to protecting the country,

The United States is not the only nation that has set aside a day to commemorate its war dead. In the UK, for example, it is Remembrance Day, Armistice Day in most European countries, Volkstrauertag in Germany, Yom Hazikaron in Israel, Victory Day in Russia and ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand.

The difference between Memorial Day and other patriotic holidays

Memorial Day is often confused with other patriotic holidays such as Veterans' Day and Defense Day. First and foremost, Memorial Day is always celebrated on the last Monday in May. It is also celebrated in honor of the fallen soldiers of the United States Armed Forces. Veterans Day or Weapons Day, on the other hand, is celebrated on 11 th November. It reminds all military veterans of the United States Armed Forces. This includes both living and deceased military veterans. Defense Day is another occasion that is confused with Memorial Day. However, it is celebrated on the 3rd rd Saturday in May and honors those currently serving in the United States Armed Forces.

The story of Memorial Day

Honoring war dead is an ancient ritual that dates back around 4000 years. Archaeologists suggest that the white monument in Tell Banat, Syria, may be the oldest known war memorial in the world. They noticed certain patterns in the way bone deposits from corpses were found buried in the mound. This led them to suggest that the buried bodies must have belonged to members of an army.

In 431 BC, in ancient Greece, there is evidence of a special service held in honor of soldiers who died in battle. The Athenian leader and statesman Pericles gave a speech in honor of the fallen soldiers of the Peloponnesian War. This happens to be the first recorded in history where a kind of memorial day was observed to honor fallen soldiers. The Greco-Romans would continue to host similar events for their war dead. In addition to speeches, people would gather to adorn the graves of the soldiers with flowers and arrange parties in their honor.

Honor the fallen soldiers from the Civil War

In the United States, the very first sighting of war dead dates back to the time of the Civil War. The American Civil War ended in 1865, when around 620,000 25 soldiers from both the Union and Confederate sides lost their lives. After the war, and in some cases, even before it, various communities in the country gathered to mourn their lost loved ones. This marks the origin of Memorial Day in America. How or how exactly this tradition started is unknown. An estimated XNUMX places claim that they were responsible for starting the holiday. Friends and families of soldiers from both sides of the war gathered at their graves and placed flags and flowers each spring. This started a tradition that is still followed today.

Wherever observance of Remembrance Day actually began, in 1966, former New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of the holiday. This was then approved by the US Congress. The reason Waterloo became the birthplace of this day, of all places, is because Rockefeller claimed that it was here that the "first, formal, complete, well-planned, village-wide observance of a day entirely dedicated to honoring war dead" was held. in 1866.

Decoration Day

The tradition of decorating the soldiers' graves every spring continued. Soon a separate day of the year was devoted to this purpose. General A John Logan, leader of the Union Veteran Association and war veteran united this tradition into a nationwide holiday known as Decoration Day. This day was to be marked 30 th May because that was when flowers were most likely to bloom in the fields.

The first national day of decoration was celebrated in 1868. On this day, 5,000 mourners gathered at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. They placed flowers and ribbons on around 20,000 XNUMX graves of both Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers. Flags and symbols were also placed on their graves. They corresponded to which side the soldiers fought for. On this day, former President Ulysses S. Grant also attended the celebration, and former Union General James Garfield gave a speech.

From decoration day to memorial day

In 1890, the decoration day became a state holiday. Each state now had its own form of decoration day, which means that the holiday was celebrated by the whole country. The day of decoration grew through the 19th century, and towards the end of that century the holiday was called Memorial Day. However, it was not until World War I that Memorial Day became more popular than its former name. The decoration day was associated with honoring the fallen soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War.

While Memorial Day would now be associated more with honoring all American soldiers in all wars. Not just the Civil War. During World War I, about 130,000 1967 American soldiers lost their lives. On Memorial Day, their friends and families no longer honored them separately as Union or Confederate soldiers. The war had finally united the northern and southern states. While the holiday was now known to the masses as Memorial Day, it was not until 1868 that it officially became known by that name. It was also around this time that the date to celebrate Memorial Day changed. Since 30, the holiday has been held every XNUMX th Can. However, according to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of June 28 th 1968, Memorial Day was now to be celebrated on the last Monday in May each year. It was not until 1971 that this law was enforced.

During this time, schools, post offices, some banks and some businesses are closed on this day. This will give most employees and students a long weekend where they are reunited with their families and celebrate the holiday in different ways. This three-day weekend is called Memorial Day weekend.

How is Memorial Day celebrated?

On Memorial Day, Americans take the day to honor the men and women who lost their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The celebration of the day is expected to be respectful and sincere. Families and friends of fallen soldiers gather in the cemetery and decorate the graves of their loved ones with flags, ribbons, fresh flowers, crosses, wreaths and other symbols. Much like in the old days. One flower that is synonymous with Memorial Day is the red poppy. Red poppies made of fabric or paper are attached to the left lapel in honor of the fallen soldiers.

The significance of the red poppy

The red poppy became a symbol of memory during the First World War. Poppies are flowers that can grow in the most unlikely places, even on the battlefield. The war tore the countries apart and everything was in ruins. Despite this wreck, in the spring, red poppies appeared from the ground. Poppies have therefore become a symbol of hope and resilience. The flower was associated with remembering war injuries after being inspired by a poem. In 1915, a Canadian surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, was inspired to write the famous memorial poem "In Flanders Fields". This was after he saw many red poppies blooming in the place where several soldiers had recently lost their lives. The place now known as Flanders Field was a large battlefield located between West and East Flanders, in Belgium.

The tradition of carrying poppies began with Professor Moina Michael of the American University of Georgia. She read McCrae's poem and was so moved by it that she began to wear a red poppy in honor of the fallen soldiers. She also suggested the idea of ​​making red poppies and selling them to raise money for war veterans and their families. This is a tradition that continues to this day.

Memorial Day services

Also on Memorial Day, many cemeteries offer special services to the public. So, in addition to placing flowers and flags on graves and carrying poppies, people attend these services. At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, for example, the President of the United States or their nominee gives a speech, speaks at the Memorial Day ceremony, and performs the wreath-laying ceremony. In this ceremony, the president was laying a wreath at the grave of the unknown soldier. The tomb serves as the final resting place for three unidentified American soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. It also serves as a symbol for all those soldiers who were unable to be identified or located after the war. The very first time the unknown soldiers were honored was at Veteran's Day 1921, at Arlington National Cemetery. Since then, this ceremony has become an annual event.

National Memorial

The day is also marked by setting the flag on a half pole until kl. Then it is raised to the top at sunset, in honor of the fallen soldiers. At 3 o'clock local time, the Americans stop whatever they are doing and stop in a minute's silence to remember the men and women who died in the struggle for the country. 3 is officially recognized as the national moment of remembrance. This is in accordance with the National Moment of Remembrance Act 2000, signed by former President Bill Clinton. 3:XNUMX was chosen because that is when most Americans take time off to celebrate National Day.

Watches and parades

On this day, many guards are kept to honor and remember the fallen soldiers who fought for the country's freedom. In addition, various communities around the country organize Memorial Day parades. These parades are quite memorable. Thousands of people gather to watch marching bands of both active and retired military personnel holding the American flag. They also see patriotic floats marching in procession. The oldest running Memorial Day parade is the Ironton-Lawrence Memorial Day Parade, in Ironton, Ohio. It has been held since 1868. The largest Memorial Day Parade is the National Memorial Day Parade, which takes place in Washington DC. It is one of the most famous in the country. So much so that it is broadcast on national television. Other major parades take place in New York and Chicago.

Memorial Day, an unofficial start to the summer

The main purpose of observing Memorial Day is to pay tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in battle for their country. Many Americans celebrate the day by attending memorial services, guards, and parades that we discussed earlier. Others use this time to reunite with family and friends to kickstart the summer. They use the long weekend to start the summer season early.

Summer does not officially begin until 21 st June or summer solstice, but the weather is pleasant and warm at this time of year. It is also quite close to the summer season. Most importantly, people get a long weekend off from work and school for Memorial Day. It is also around this time that schools close and the children are released for the summer holidays. This provides the right opportunity for families to take a short vacation together. For these reasons, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer.

During this time, people gather and engage in various outdoor activities. Some people visit the nearby beach or relax in a pool to cool off. They even visit the nearest lake or river to go tubing in the cool water. Others prefer it to travel across the country. They can go on long drives and take scenic routes. Or fly across the country to explore another city. Camping is another popular activity during Memorial Day weekend. The same is picnic. Large families gather after months and spend an afternoon playing games, arranging barbecues, drinking beer and just catching up. Barbecue has actually become a Memorial Day weekend tradition for many. Sausages, burgers, hot dogs, ribs, chicken wings, beef, kebabs, chops, grilled corn served with coleslaw, potato salads and other salads are some of the many classic foods enjoyed on this day.

Memorial Day Sale

Another activity that many are looking forward to this weekend Memorial Day is shopping. While most businesses are closed around this time, the stores are open and their products are on sale. There are attractive discounts on things like furniture, electronic devices, appliances, mattresses, barbecue equipment, pools, outdoor furniture and much more. Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowes, Publix, Macy's, Starbucks, Pottery Barn, Walmart and Target are some of the many stores sold this weekend on Memorial Day.

There are some reasons why sales are going on around this time. The first is that Americans tend to spend more during the warmer months of the year. Second, a long weekend gives consumers more time to shop. That way, they can take the time to test and compare products such as furniture, mattresses, appliances and outdoor equipment. These products become especially necessary when they move to a new location. Interestingly, most Americans move to new homes between May and August. Eventually, Memorial Day sales have become a tradition and are now part of the Memorial Day celebration.

Some stores are slowly starting to go on sale in early May, but they are in full swing a week or two before Memorial Day weekend. These sales last until Memorial Day.

Attend annual events

Numerous events are held across the country during the Memorial Day weekend. It is everything from cultural events, sports events and marathons to music events, carnivals and so much more. Something happens for everyone's likes and interests. Here are some of the many events that are held each year on the weekend of Remembrance Day.

First on the list are music events and music festivals. Music lovers have a variety of music festivals and events to choose from during Memorial Day weekend. These music festivals attract local and international artists to perform in various genres. There are also genre-specific music festivals, which means there is something for everyone. Some of the more popular music festivals are e.g. Boston calls, a 3-day in Allston, Massachusetts; 3-Day BottleRock Music Festival in Napa Valley, California and California Roots Music and Art Festival in Monterey, California.

It's also Summer Camp, Chillicothe, Illinois. It is the largest event in the Midwest during Memorial Day weekend. For Electronic Dance Music The Sunset Music Festival in Tampa, Florida is one of the largest events in the area. Another major music festival is the Atlanta Jazz Festival in Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia. This two-day festival is one of the largest free jazz festivals in the United States.

Memorial Day weekend is also when the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina starts. This is a seventeen-day festival founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti in 1977. It is a performing arts festival where established artists perform dance, opera, theater, comedy and music of various genres.

Indy 500

Another event worth attending during Memorial Day weekend is the Indianapolis 500 or Indy 500. It is a car race that has been held every year since 1911. Today it is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In this race, professional drivers race against each other to complete 200 laps or 500 miles. The Indy 500 is one of the most famous motorsport events in the country. Thousands of people gather to witness this one-day event. This year the event will take place 29 th Kan.

Last but not least is the Air and Sea Show in Miami Beach, Florida. The two-day event begins with an exhibition of technology and equipment used by the five branches of the US military, police force, firefighters and first aid agencies. So, when the exhibition and the show are over, various artists from all over the country and the world perform on stage. Even US Military Bands and Drill Teams take the stage to perform.

The true meaning of Memorial Day

The three-day weekend provides, as we saw, the necessary break from one's fast-paced life. The weather is pleasant and there is so much to do with family and friends. But all this must not take the focus away from the real reason why Memorial Day is celebrated. At the end of the day, it is a gloomy holiday meant to honor the brave soldiers who died and fought for the country's freedom. Remembering them and the ultimate sacrifice made by them is what Memorial Day is all about.