Some of our readers have never heard of Decoration Day. What we now call Memorial Day was originally Decoration Day.
In the mid-late 1800s families visited local cemeteries or traveled out of town to military cemeteries. They visited to decorate the graves of loved ones who died during military service and remember.
The Library of Congress reports that the first national celebration took place on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery.
The transition to Memorial Day
Participation in Decoration Day was considered a civic duty. Every American was expected to decorate the graves of the people who died while serving in the armed forces. Early on, different states chose different dates to honor the dead. At the turn of the century, Americans began referring to the holiday as Memorial Day. In 1971, officials moved the holiday to the last Monday in May. The recognition was formalized to honor all American soldiers who died in all wars.
In modern times, people connect the holiday with family gatherings, BBQs, and retail sales. However, as we come out of lockdown from Covid-19 we are thankful it is still celebrated with parades and cemetery visits across America.
Memorial Day has an important role
It is important to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the name of our country. We may be more aware of them, and their service, now than we were in years past.
The United States is slowly coming out of this pandemic and pulling out our folding chairs. Think about your loved ones and remind them why we celebrate Memorial Day. So take a few minutes to consider what Memorial Day used to be, what it is today, and why it matters.