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Meaning of Memorial Day

Neha Joshi Aug 22, 2020
Learn the true meaning of Memorial Day and why is it lost in the world today. This day is celebrated to remember the war dead; in honor of the lives they sacrificed. Continue reading to know how it became more of holiday in the recent years.
Memorial Day is a holiday celebrated in the United States of America in honor of the war dead. This holiday is celebrated every year, in May. The celebration takes place by stationing the American flag in front of all the gravestones; a way to pay tribute to the dead soldiers.
Nowadays, it is mostly celebrated as a long weekend that marks the starting of the summer vacation holidays. Here is the actual meaning and some other stories and facts related to this day.

What is Memorial Day?

The day is celebrated on the last Monday of May every year in remembrance of soldiers who have lost their lives in service to the United States of America.
A lot of cities claimed to be the birthplace of this day, but in May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y. as the official birthplace of this day. This day was earlier known as 'Decoration Day', as on this day the graves of all the soldiers were decorated with American flags all around the country.
General John Logan officially declared Memorial Day on 5th May, 1868 and it was first celebrated on 30th May, 1868. In 1873, New York was the first state to recognize this day as a holiday. By 1890, it was observed as a holiday by all the Northern States.

Know The True Meaning

The practices were started initially to honor only the American Civil War soldiers. After World War I, it was extended and celebrated to honor all the American soldiers who had died in any national or international wars and not a particular one.
People initially started visiting graves of their relatives on Memorial Day and it was an expression of remembering the sacrifices they made for the country. The initial date on which celebrations took place, was May 30, which the Congress changed to the last Monday of May.
Many Americans today feel that this has increased the neglect towards the actual meaning of this day. They still protest against it to some extent saying that it should be celebrated on the actual date of May 30.
10 years ago, a National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed that suggested that all Americans should pause from whatever they are doing in honor of the soldiers who lost their lives in the name of the country at exactly 3 pm local time. This was done to remind us of the true purpose of this day, and its importance as a whole.

What Your Kids Should Know

Kids today know what Memorial Day actually means, but prefer celebrating it by shopping or as a vacation. The genuine intent of this day is completely lost.
For the kids, it has just remained as the start of the summer vacation and as a long weekend where everyone can go shopping, to the movies with parents, and on small trips. It is more of a welcoming of summer than remembrance in honor of the war dead.
They look forward to it only as a holiday where they can have some fun and not to take part in the actual activities of flag placing and the sort. However, there are also some kids who know the true meaning of this day and take part in services and common discussions along with their parents. For them, the significance is retained.

Some Interesting Facts

Here are some interesting facts about Memorial Day. Many people don't know these facts, but they really help in increasing the common spirit of celebrating such days with much more sincerity and honesty.
  • 1,200 soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry place American flags at 260,000 gravestones on the Thursday before Memorial Day at the Arlington National Cemetery, after which they patrol the graveyard day and night to ensure that none of the flags have fallen and that they all remain standing.
  • The Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, St. Louis, started to place flags at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as a yearly Good Turn. This began in 1951 and they practice it even today by placing flags in front of all the 150,000 graves.
  • Few years back, in 2004, Washington D.C. held a Memorial Day parade after over 60 years or so.
  • At the Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg National Military Park, Marye's Heights, the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts place candles in front of all the 15,300 gravestones. This practice started somewhere in 1988 and is observed on the Saturday before Memorial Day.
Here we saw the true meaning of Memorial Day explained from different perspectives that exist today. This day is a very important day in American history and should be valued for its meaning. Let's hope that we can inculcate this feeling in all Americans, their children and thus revive the almost lost value of this day.