Memorial Day is more than just a weekend off from work, an excuse to throw a picnic, or a reason to take a weekend trip, it is a national holiday. The history behind Memorial Day seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle throughout the years. With May 27th growing closer, take time to familiarize yourself with the history of Memorial Day, and why we celebrate this holiday.
Memorial Day, originally known as “Decoration Day,” was established on May 5 1868 by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The first observation of Memorial Day took place on May 30th 1868, by decorating the graves of fallen Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery.
Here is an excerpt from General Logan’s “General Orders No. 11,” officially declaring “Decoration Day.”
“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”
New York was the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day as a Holiday in 1873, and all of the Northern states had followed suit by 1890. The Southern states didn’t recognize Memorial Day until after World War 1 when it was changed from recognizing soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the Civil War, to soldiers who lost their lives fighting in any war America participated in.
The reason that students and employees are given the day off on Memorial Day, is so they can properly observe the holiday. When the holiday was originally established nationally it was intended to give patrons the opportunity to visit the graves of our fallen soldiers, attend memorials, fly the American flag at half staff until noon, and acknowledge the “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3:00 PM. The “National Moment of Remembrance” is when everyone has a moment of silence and if you are in a public place “Taps” is played.
So, this year on Memorial weekend take a moment to remember why you don’t have to go to work or school. If you are taking a trip with your family, make your rest stop at a memorial or Veteran’s cemetery and observe the men who have fought for our country. If you are having a get together at your home, or attend one at someone else’s home, give a little speech at 3:00 and call for a moment of silence to remind your friends and family why you are all able to get together that weekend.