Memorial Day 2023: History & Traditions – Ultimate Guide
Memorial Day is one of very special day in U.S history that occurred on the last Monday in May every year to honor all those men and women died in the American military. Memorial Day 2023 is an official holiday on Monday, May 29, 2023.
This special day in America, which is mostly known as Decoration Day was originated after the Civil War and later became an official federal holiday in 1971. Most peoples in America celebrate this special day by visiting cemeteries or memorials of their loved ones, arranging family gatherings, and attending in parades. Unofficially, it also considered as the beginning of summer.
The Birthplace of Memorial Day and Early Observances
The Civil War in US, which ended in the spring of 1865, killed highest number of people in the history of United States and became the major reason to the establishment of America’s first national cemetery.
In the late 1860s, Americans in some towns and cities began to honor fallen soldiers in the spring, decorating graves with flowers and saying prayers.
It is not clear well that who exactly started this tradition; communities in different areas and states can initiate their own memorial gatherings to remember their loved ones. Some records also show that one of the first Memorial Day commemorations was held by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina, less than a month after Confederation in 1865. However, the federal U.S government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966.
In 1866, first Memorial Day was celebrated on May 5 at Waterloo, because of the annual community event, where almost all businesses close and peoples from the area decorate soldiers’ graves with lots flowers and flags.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, head of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a national day of remembrance later that month. “The Decoration on May 30, 1868, reserved to decorate the graves of friends who died in defense of their country during the late Rebellion, and whose bodies are lied in almost every city, village and church yard,” he said.
The date of Memorial Day was chosen, as it was called, because it was not the anniversary of a specific war.
On the very first Decoration Day, General James Garfield spoke at National Cemetery Arlington and almost 5,000 participants that day decorated the graves of more than 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried in the cemetery.
Similar commemorations were held in most of the northern states in U.S, and the tradition revived in later years; By 1890, each made Decoration Day an official national holiday. Other hand, countries in southern region, continued to honor the dead on different days after World War I.
History of Memorial Day
As Memorial Day gradually became known as a decoration day, it originally only honored those killed in action during the Civil War. But during World War I, the United States was involved in other major conflicts, and the holiday grew to commemorate American servicemen who died in all wars, including World War-II, the the Korean War, Vietnam War and the wars in other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. . .
For many years, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30, the date General Logan chose for the first day of decoration. But in 1968, Congress passed the Good Monday Holiday Act, which designated Memorial Day as the last Monday in May to create a three-day holiday for federal employees. This amendment was enacted in 1971. The law declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Memorial Day Traditions and Rituals
All Cities and towns in United States hold annual Memorial Day parades on Memorial Day, often attended by members of military organizations and veterans. Some of the largest parades are in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Americans visit cemeteries and memorials and celebrate Memorial Day. Some people wear red poppies to remember those who have fallen in war – a tradition that began with a First World War poem. While some people travel for the weekend or throw parties and barbecues during the holidays, Memorial Day weekend — the long weekend that includes the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day — is the unofficial start of summer.