Memorial Day is often taken as a day for companies to have an enticing sales event or an opportunity for a three-day weekend. However, there is much more significance to this holiday. It originates from an immense loss, with over 620,000 soldiers dying in the Civil War, and sadly, it has become commercialized.
Though all of us may not know a veteran or have a close relationship with someone in the military, we all have been affected by those who have fought and fallen to give us the freedom that we experience today in America.
Memorial Day first began as Decoration Day, established by the head of the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868, three days after the Civil War. The title, “Decoration Day,” was coined to convey the intention of the holiday, which was to decorate the graves of those who had fallen during the Civil War. After World War I, the holiday broadened its purpose to honor those who had died in all the American wars. In 1971, an act of Congress established Decoration Day as Memorial Day and instituted it as a national holiday to take place on the last Monday in May.
Each family may have a unique way of honoring this holiday, but there are a few customs that have developed over the years. Some communities hold parades that incorporate military personnel and veteran organizations. Others observe the day closer to its original origin, taking the time to visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of their loved ones. One of the customs is to fly the American flag at half staff until noon, then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset. One of the more recognized customs was established by Congress, the National Moment of Remembrance. It is the act of taking a moment of silence at 3pm on Memorial Day to honor past and current soldiers and their sacrifices.
It is believed Major General John A. Logan set Memorial Day to the original date of May 30th because flowers would be blossoming all over the country at this time. This reflects the beauty of the holiday. Memorial Day is meant to be a day of remembrance, a day to reflect on the soldiers who gave their lives in service of our nation. We can look around during this blooming springtime and think about how our lovely American land came at a price. May we use this day to reflect on the security of our country, those who have sacrificed their lives for our safety, and those who are currently bravely serving in the Armed Forces.
Holzel, David. “10 Things to Remember About Memorial Day.” Mental Floss, 20 May 2019, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/27858/10-things-remember-about-memorial-day.
Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. “Memorial Day History.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 July 2015, https://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp.