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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Memorial Day

When Memorial Day was originally created, it was actually called Decoration Day. On May 5, 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, Major. General. John A. Logan, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, called for the creation of Decoration Day as a nationwide decorating of the graves of those who died in the war with flowers.

During the first Decoration Day on May 30, 1868, General James Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 observers decorated more than 20,000 Union and Confederate graves.

The Tomb of the Unknowns located in Arlington National Cemetery

The name of the holiday was also changed to Memorial Day around the time of World War I.

The tradition of wearing red poppies to honor Memorial Day started in 1915 and was inspired by the World War I poem, "In Flanders Fields."  In 1921, the American Legion adopted the poppy as their symbol, and still sells them on Memorial Day today.

President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, New York, the birthplace of Memorial Day in May 1966. The reason why President Johnson declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day was because it was the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873.

Memorial Day celebrations continued to take place on May 30, the date of the first one organized by Major James Logan in 1868. However, on June 28, 1968, the United States Congress signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that said that the official Memorial Day holiday is May 30, but that Memorial Day was to be observed by Federal Employees as a paid holiday on the last Monday in May.

Picture of graves decorated with flags at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2008.

There is actually a law passed by Congress in 2000 that requires every U.S. citizen to pause at exactly 3 PM local time on Memorial Day to observe a National Moment of Remembrance.

Memorial Day is thought of by many Americans as being the start of Summer.


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