What is the history and significance of Memorial Day? – NBC Chicago

In recent history, Memorial Day has signified the unofficial start of summer. Families barbecue on the grill, the local pool announces its opening day, retailers promote big sales.

While everyone has the freedom to celebrate however they choose, Americans should also remember that this holiday is truly a somber occasion to pause and reflect as a nation.

What is Memorial Day?

The holiday is held annually on the last Monday in May and is a day dedicated to honoring American military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

More than 1.3 million Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

When was Memorial Day first celebrated?

Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day”. In 1869, the head of a Union veterans organization, Major General John A. Logan, established Decorating Day as a way for the nation to honor the graves of those who died. during the Civil War with flowers, according to the U.S. Department. of Veterans Affairs.

There are debates over which city was the original location of Memorial Day, although the first major sighting was at Arlington National Cemetery for a crowd of around 5,000 in 1868.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, the official “birthplace” of the holiday, according to the VA.

Why was May 30 chosen?

It is believed that May 30 was chosen by Logan as the day to observe Decorating Day because flowers would be in bloom across the country, according to the VA.

Although there were future conversations about the official day of Memorial Day, in the late 19th century state legislatures passed proclamations designating May 30 as a holiday.

Veterans Day and Memorial Day both honor the American military community, but the two holidays serve different purposes.

When was it declared a federal holiday?

In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a holiday, making it the last Monday in May. According to the VA, the day has been expanded to honor all those who have died in America’s wars.

The December 2000 Congress passed and the President signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act”, to ensure that those who sacrificed their lives for the country would not be forgotten.

How to observe Memorial Day

At 3 p.m. local time, Americans are invited to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance, a moment of pause in a moment of silence to honor those who have died in service to the United States.

Editor’s note: A version of this story was originally published in 2022.

NBC Chicago

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