What Is Memorial Day And Why Do We Celebrate It

Charisse Van Horn - Author

Jun. 29 2017, Updated 3:42 a.m. ET

For many, Memorial Day is a time to go to the beach, have barbecues and enjoy patriotic desserts, drinks and get a great sale or deal. However; many people aren’t sure exactly what Memorial Day is or why we celebrate it. Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day, a day established on May 5, 1868, as a time to visit the graves of veterans who served and perished and decorate their tombstones.

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Decoration Day was held on May 30, because people placed flowers on those who served their country and paid the ultimate price. It was believed that by the end of May, flowers would have bloomed across the nation, making it a time when everyone could visit their local cemeteries and participate in Decoration Day. According to a North Carolina Public Schools document, General John A. Logan issued a public order declaring Decoration Day.

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“Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers.

“On May 5, 1868, Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that: The 30th of May, 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or 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 churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

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While many people pay their respects to fallen veterans on Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and decorating graves with flags, flowers, wreaths and more, many choose to honor the fallen through cookouts, barbecues, and patriotic food and drinks.

Some feel that Memorial Day shouldn’t be a time of celebration, but of solemn remembrance, sorrow and sadness. Regardless of how people choose to observe Memorial Day, it’s important that people remember the meaning behind the holiday.

Other popular Memorial Day events include attending parades, jazz festivals, cruises, the Indianapolis 500, the Memorial Tournament Golf Event, and holding a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time through the National Moment of Remembrance.

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Memorial Day is when we honor and remember those who were asked to give their lives for the nation’s freedom; but it is also a time to recognize the efforts and sacrifices made by all those in the armed forces.

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When celebrating Memorial Day, it’s a good idea to start at the local level and check for events in your community. Many cemeteries hold special Memorial Day services and there are often Memorial Day parades that take place in cities and towns. Local veterans often participate in neighboring, community Memorial Day events. You can check with your local Veterans Administration to find community events as well.

Memorial Day is a time where many people return the sacrifice and offering veterans make on a daily basis by volunteering in their communities. The Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) provides opportunities for those who want to give their time to help veterans. The VAVS also places flags on veterans’ graves on Memorial Day.

[Photo by Gavin Baker Photography/Shutterstock]


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