TR Robertson –The last Monday of May, America will once again celebrate the final holiday before the summer season hits us, the final holiday for students and a day created to celebrate and remember our patriotic heroes who sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom. Most families will celebrate with family cookouts, trips to parks, beaches and other spots and many will visit cemeteries and memorials to remember loved ones. Like most of our holidays, this holiday is also steeped in trivia and facts that surround the creation of the holiday and celebration over the years.
Some of the facts and trivia surrounding Memorial Day are:
- Memorial Day started in commemoration of fallen Union and Confederate soldiers. The exact location of the first celebration is up to debate. In April 1866, women from Columbus, Mississippi are said to have laid flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. The same month, in Carbondale, Illinois, Civil War veterans marched through the town in memory of fallen comrades. This is said to be the first organized, community wide Memorial Day. Waterloo, New York, began holding an annual celebration on May 5, 1866, and Waterloo has won congressional recognition as the “birthplace of Memorial Day”. On May 30, 1868, General James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where 5,000 people then decorated the graves of over 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. The celebration was presided over by President Ulysses S. Grant.
- Initially, this holiday was called Decoration Day but by the end of the 1880’s is was referred to as Memorial Day. This holiday wouldn’t officially become Memorial Day until 1967.
- Three years after the Civil War ended, May 30th was chosen as the day for Decoration Day as it was felt by this day flowers would be in bloom all over the country. In 1971, the Monday Holiday Law shifted Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday of the month of May. And Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday.
- In December 2000, Congress passed a law requiring Americans to pause at 3 pm local time, on Memorial Day, to remember and honor the fallen.
- In addition to the national holiday, nine states officially set aside a day to honor those who died fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil Way: Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia. The days for this celebration vary.
- The South refused to honor the dead on Memorial Day until after World War I when the meaning of Memorial Day changed from honoring Civil War dead to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
- According to AAA, over 36 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home on Memorial Day.
- In 1915, Moina Michael wrote a poem inspiring people to wear red poppies om Memorial Day.
- On Memorial Day, the flag should be at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.
- “Taps” is often played at ceremonies on Memorial Day.
- New York was the 1st state to officially recognize Memorial Day.
- Since the late 1950’s, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, around 1,200 soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during that weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.
- In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on Memorial Day on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
Whatever your family does to celebrate this National Holiday, have a fun, safe and memorable time; but stop to remember why we have this “holiday” and what it means to live in a nation with the freedoms we have and those that have died to ensure we keep these freedoms.