As many of us in the United States are enjoying the three-day weekend, it’s nice to pause and reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day.
1. It was originally called Decoration Day. In 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, Union veterans called for the creation of Decoration Day as a nationwide decorating of the graves with flowers for those who died in the war. On May 30th of that year, 5,000 observers decorated more than 20,000 Union and Confederate graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
2. As with many holidays, there is controversy over the first Memorial Day. In 1865, a group of former slaves created a proper burial site for more than 250 Union soldiers. About 10,000 people gathered that year to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.
3. Memorial Day originally began as a way to honor those who died while serving in the Civil War. During World War I, the holiday was expanded to honor fallen soldiers in any conflict.
4. Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be observed the last Monday of May in 1971.
5. Four Federal holidays are observed on a Monday: Memorial Day, George Washington’s birthday, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.
6. Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died while serving. Veterans Day (November 11) celebrates the service of all US military veterans.
7. A National Memorial Day observance continues to be held at Arlington National Cemetery. The Old Guard places little American flags at the gravesites of service members buried at Arlington National Cemetery on the Thursday before Memorial day every year.
8. All Americans are supposed to pause for a minute of silence at 3pm local time on Memorial Day to pay tribute to the men and women who died serving the nation.
9. Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA contains the remains of more than 400,000 people from the US and eleven other countries.
10. More than 4 million people visit Arlington National Cemetery annually.