In the United States, Memorial Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the last Monday of May. It was once known as Decoration Day. At first, it was a day to honor Union soldiers who died in the American Civil War. Later, it include soldiers who served in World War I.
In 1865, the North would decorate the soldiers’ graves. It was John Logan, the National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, who had all GAR posts celebrate “Decoration Day” on May 30, 1868. There ended up being events in 183 different cemeteries throughout the states.
At first the Memorial Day (1863) speeches were an occasion for veterans, politicians and ministers to commemorate the war and the atrocities of the enemy. Religion and patriotism were combined so that the people could make sense of the sacrifice their love ones made for a better nation. People of all religions joined together and most speeches from 1863-1870 made a point to say Germans and Irish (at the time, they were new immigrants to American soil) soldiers had become true Americans in the “baptism of blood” on the battlefield. By the end of 1870s, they began to praise the brave soldiers of the Blue and Gray. By 1950, the celebration was about world freedom.
Today many people observe the holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Volunteers will place American flags on each gravesite at the National Cemeteries. A national remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time. Flying a flag of the United States at half-staff from dawn until noon local time has also become a tradition.
Many people celebrate at parks, attend parades and get together with friends and family. At my house on Memorial Day, we relax at home. We have a flag out front all year round, but we fly it half-staff on Memorial Day. My husband served in the Air Force and my two nephews are now serving in the National Guard.
I’m interested in knowing what you do on Memorial Day. If anyone reads this who lives in another country, do you have a day of remembrance for the men and women who served in your countries’ military?