6 facts about Memorial Day and how to celebrate it
Posted May 27
Updated May 28
Red, white and blue will span the landscapes of American cities this weekend as flags are placed on the graves of fallen soldiers.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives throughout the more than 200 years of war history of the nation. This year, the holiday falls on May 29.
Amid the family gatherings, barbecues and outdoor activities, Americans traditionally observe Memorial Day through ceremonies, parades and placing flowers and flags on the gravesites of family and friends.
In preparing for the day of remembrance, here are some facts and activity ideas to help make the holiday more meaningful.
Memorial Day history
The holiday was originally called “Decoration Day” and was first observed on May 5, 1868, a date chosen because it didn’t fall on the anniversary of any particular battle, according to History.com. Gen. John A. Logan, a military man and political leader, spoke at the Arlington National Cemetery. The speech was followed by 5,000 people decorating the graves of 20,000 soldiers buried there.
Traditions practiced on Memorial Day were born during the Civil War, according to mentalfloss.com. Following the battle of Gettysburg, women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, placed flowers on the graves of the fallen soldiers. A couple of years later, women from Columbus, Mississippi, decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers.
Act to remember
The “National Moment of Remembrance Act” was signed on Dec. 20, 2000, by President Bill Clinton, designating 3 p.m. as a moment set aside to “pause and consider the true meaning of this holiday.”
Thank a veteran
While Memorial Day honors fallen soldiers, it’s also an opportunity to thank those currently serving in the military. Holidappy suggests visiting disabled or wounded veterans and thanking them for their service. Operation Gratitude is a project that has people write letters and send care packages to soldiers currently deployed.
Hit the road
Memorial Day unofficially marks the beginning of summer for many Americans, meaning the roads are typically packed with the first rush of weekend travelers. The American Automobile Association estimates that 39.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from their homes this weekend. As preparations for this Memorial Day are being made, be sure to plan accordingly and to travel safely.