Memorial Day: A Holiday That's About More Than Barbecues

Memorial Day: A Holiday That's About More Than Barbecues

Memorial Day is more than just a day off work. Learn about the history of this federal holiday and how it's observed today in the United States

Sculpture of General John Logan at Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois, United States. Photo Credit: @dfariaphotography

When most people think of Memorial Day, they think of barbecues, parades, and the unofficial start of summer. And while those things are certainly a big part of the holiday, there’s a deeper meaning behind it that often gets overlooked.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States that is dedicated to honoring the men and women who have died while serving in the country’s armed forces. It’s a day to remember the sacrifices that these brave individuals made for our country, and to reflect on the cost of war.

Did you know that Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was established as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers? It wasn’t until after World War I that the holiday was expanded to honor all U.S. military personnel who died while serving their country. Today, Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed in a variety of ways throughout the United States, from somber ceremonies to lively parades.

But here’s the twist: Did you know that Memorial Day wasn’t always a federal holiday? In fact, it wasn’t even called Memorial Day until several decades after it was first observed.

The holiday has its roots in the aftermath of the Civil War, when communities all across the country began holding ceremonies to honor the soldiers who had died in the conflict. Originally known as Decoration Day, these ceremonies often involved decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags.

Over time, the holiday began to evolve. In 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued an order that called for the decoration of graves on May 30th of that year. The order also declared that the day should be “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”

In the years that followed, the holiday continued to grow in popularity, with more and more communities holding their own Decoration Day ceremonies. By the end of the 19th century, the holiday had become a national event, and it was officially recognized as a federal holiday in 1971.

So, as you enjoy your barbecues and parades this Memorial Day, take a moment to remember the true meaning behind the holiday. And remember, it’s not just about honoring those who have died in service to our country—it’s also about reflecting on the sacrifices that they made, and working to create a world where war is no longer necessary.

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