Memorial Day may bring images of barbecues, outdoor activities, or a day off work to your mind. While Memorial Day does often include those elements, it’s much, much more! This holiday deserves our attention, as it honors the soldiers we lost during their service in the US Armed Forces. Read on to learn more about Memorial Day and how it transformed from its early history to Decoration Day and finally to its present form:
The tradition of formally remembering loved ones annually dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. They would adorn graves with flowers and host feasts and festivals to honor those they had lost.
Fast forward to the Civil War, our nation’s most costly conflict in terms of loss of human life. In 1865, the war ended, and “by the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers,” according to History.com.
These tributes were the inspiration for what became Decoration Day, first observed on May 30, 1868. By 1890, all the northern states had adopted May 30 as Decoration Day as official state holidays. The southern states opted to observe commemorative holidays for their fallen soldiers on differing days until after WWI.
Over time, Decoration Day was renamed “Memorial Day,” and in 1971, Congress declared it as a national holiday. Memorial Day has also come to commemorate more than just our Civil War heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice; it now honors all American military personnel who have lost their lives in any US military conflict. In addition, the holiday is now observed every year on the last Monday in May instead of the original designation of May 30.
This Memorial Day, when you are enjoying your celebrations and day off of work, take some time to remember those who made it possible to enjoy our freedoms. May we never forget those who have sacrificed everything to make our lives what they are today.