On Memorial Day, most of us enjoy a day off work and celebrate the unofficial start of summer by boating, having barbeques or shopping the Memorial Day sales. Being with loved ones is a meaningful way to spend the day, but it’s also important to remember fallen soldiers and veterans on Memorial Day. Whether you take time for a moment of silence or spend the whole day reflecting, Memorial Day reminds us that freedom comes at a cost.
Here are some Memorial Day facts you might have not known:
- Originally commemorating the Union and Confederate soldiers fallen in the American
- Civil War, Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day.
- Waterloo, N.Y., began holding an annual community service on May 5, 1866. Although many towns claimed the title, it was Waterloo that won congressional recognition as the “birthplace of Memorial Day.”
- Originally, Memorial Day was observed on May 30; and it was not until 1971 when the holiday was moved to the last Monday in May to ensure the prolonged weekend.
- In the same year, 1971, Memorial Day also became a federal holiday.
- Located in Arlington County, Virginia, the Arlington National Cemetery is one of the places were major Memorial Day ceremonies take place. One of the largest cemeteries in the world, it is home to 400,000 graves.
- It is estimated that more than 39 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from their homes for the weekend, making the traffic on this holiday extremely heavy.
- In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act which asks all Americans to stop what they are doing at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to remember and honor those who have died serving the United States.
- This moment of remembrance is a one-minute period observed even by many large
- companies and organizations such as Greyhound, Amtrak, MLB, Empire State Building and others.
- Northern states adopted Memorial Day (known as Decoration Day back then) earlier and with more enthusiasm than the former Confederate states.
- In fact, it was not until after the World War I when the South finally adopted the holiday.
- At that time, the purpose of Memorial Day was broadened to include American soldiers fallen in all wars, not just the Civil War.
- The World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrea, inspired the Memorial Day custom of wearing red poppies. In 1915, a Georgia teacher and volunteer war worker named Moina Michael began a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of tribute to veterans and for “keeping the faith with all who died.”
- In 1924, faced by a shortage of poppies from French manufacturers, a first artificial poppy factory was created in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It employed veterans who needed work.
- On Memorial Day, bikers hold an event known as the Rolling Thunder Run. In this
- annual motorcycle rally, participants raise awareness of Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action. Held in Washington, D.C., the rally started out with some 2,500 participants in 1988. These days, it is a major event with almost a million bikers and spectators involved.
- Every year, the Memorial Day celebration at the Arlington Cemetery is attended by approximately 5,000 people.
- One of the Memorial Day traditions was to eat a picnic meal while sitting on the ground of a cemetery. Some people in rural areas of the south still practice it.
- On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. Then it is raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.
- According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, Memorial Day is now the second-most-popular holiday (after the Fourth of July) for a sun-baked barbecue with 53 percent of people grilling on the holiday.
- The longest running Memorial Day parade takes place in the town of Ironton, Ohio, where they have had a parade every year since 1868.
- The first Memorial Day speech was given by James Abram Garfield, then an Ohio
- congressman and later American president, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in 1868.
- Performed on the west lawn of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., the National Memorial Day Concert is also held to pay tribute to fallen US soldiers. Attended by more than half a million people at the venue, the concert can be watched by US military personnel all over the world.
MCDA CCG wishes you a safe, healthy and happy holiday weekend!