Memorial Day honors the dead military. It started back during the Civil War; and continues to this day. How much do you know about this holiday? Perhaps, it’s time to take the time to understand its origins and meaning and share knowledge with your family.
#10 – The Carnage Of The Civil War
The effect that the Civil War had on our country was sobering. Around 620,000 soldiers died from injuries, disease or starvation. Starting in 1864, many communities began to hold remembrances honoring soldiers from both sides. Carbondale, Il is recognized for the first organized, community-wide Memorial Day observance. But Waterloo, New York holds the congressional recognition as the “birthplace of Memorial Day.”
#9 – Decoration Day
The practice of decorating graves with flowers, flags, and wreaths lent itself to the popular name of Decoration Day. While the name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, it did not get popular until after World War II. Federal law declared the official name “Memorial Day” in 1967. The flag is supposed to be flown at half-mast until noon, then raised to full mast until sunset on this holiday.
#8 – Red Poppies
The tradition of wearing artificial red poppies on Memorial Day was inspired by Major John McCrae, a doctor who served in the battle of the Ypres Salient in the spring of 1915. He wrote the poem, “In Flanders Field” noting the juxtaposition of the poppies and the recent dead.
#7- It Wasn’t Always Celebrated On The Last Monday Of May
Initially, Memorial Day was to be observed every May 30th. But, in 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect. The celebration of Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday of May to ensure a long weekend.
#6 – Americans Love To Travel On Memorial Day
More than 39 million people are estimated to travel at least 50 miles from home according to AAA. Friday, May 26th, is one of the busiest days for car rentals. We’re not surprised. It’s the unofficial start of summer.
#5 – Did You Know That It’s A Law To Observe A Minute Of Silence?
Congress passed a law in December 2000 requiring Americans to pause at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to remember and honor the fallen. It’s known as the [National Moment of Remembrance].
#4 – The Difference Between Memorial Day And Veterans Day
Memorial Day honors all American soldiers who [died while serving] in the military. Veterans Day is the day [we honor ALL those who served honorably] in the military whether it was during wartime or peacetime.
#3 – Memorial Day Did Not Start Out As A “National Holiday”
Memorial Day is one of ten federal holidays. However, initially, that applied only to Federal employees and the District of Columbia. The idea was to allow Civil War veterans who were drawing a government paycheck to honor their fallen friends without being docked a day of pay. Over time, Memorial Day was enacted a holiday on a state-by-state basis. The South did not adopt the holiday until after World War 1 when the definition was broadened to include all those who died in the country’s wars. Many states in the South celebrate a “Gray” Memorial Day on various dates during the year.
#2 – The Indianapolis 500 Is Always Scheduled On Or Around Memorial Day
Starting in 1911, this massive race is always held around Memorial Day. Indianapolis businessman Carl Fisher was the one who got the ball rolling. Ray Harroun was the winner. He averaged 74.6 mph and completed the race in 6 hours and 42 minutes. In 2017, Takuma Sato was the first person from Japan to take the title. His average speed was 155.395 mph and finished the race in 3 hours, 13 minutes.
#1 – Eating Lunch At The Cemetery
It used to be tradition to eat a picnic meal at a cemetery. This is still the practice in some areas of the rural South. It is a tradition for volunteers to place the American flag on graves in national cemeteries throughout the country. It [Memorial Day] remains a favorite day for many to visit cemeteries.