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Home News The Origins Of Memorial Day: Why We Celebrate

The Origins Of Memorial Day: Why We Celebrate

The Origins Of Memorial Day: Why We Celebrate

( – Memorial Day, an iconic American holiday marked by family gatherings, local parades, and the heralding of summer’s arrival, carries a profound and solemn significance.

It’s a day uniquely woven into the fabric of American history. This moment unites the nation in honoring the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in military service.

Behind the sunshine and backyard barbecues lies a touching narrative of bravery, patriotism, and remembrance that has shaped Memorial Day into what it is today.

On May 5, 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, the leader of a group of Union veterans known as the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) founded Decoration Day as a day for the country to decorate the war dead’s graves with flowers.

It should be May 30, according to Maj. Gen. John A. Logan. It is thought that the date was selected because flowers will be in bloom nationwide on that day.

That year, Arlington National Cemetery, located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., hosted the first significant celebration. The festivities were centered on the Arlington mansion’s mourning-draped veranda, which served as General Robert E. Lee’s former residence.

Many Washington dignitaries, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the rituals. Following the remarks, members of the GAR and kids from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home made their way through the cemetery, placing flowers on Union and Confederate graves, performing prayers, and singing songs.

The First Local Observances

One of the first took place on April 25, 1866, in Columbus, Miss., when a group of ladies went to a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had died in the battle of Shiloh.

The graves of Union soldiers nearby were uncared for since they were the enemy. The women also scattered some of their flowers on those graves after being disturbed by the sight of the empty graves.

Today, cities in both the North and the South stake a claim to having established Memorial Day in 1866. The title is held by Richmond, Va., and Macon and Columbus, both in Georgia.

Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claims it started there two years earlier. The first Decoration Day ceremony was held there on April 29, 1866, according to a stone in a cemetery in Carbondale, Illinois.

General Logan lived in Carbondale during the war. There are about 25 locations associated with the beginning of Memorial Day, many of them in the South, where most of the war dead were buried.

Official Birthplace Declared

President Lyndon Johnson and Congress designated Waterloo, New York, as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day in 1966. On May 5, 1866, a ceremony there honored Civil War heroes from the area.

Businesses were closed, and flags were flown at half-staff by locals. According to supporters of Waterloo, previous celebrations in other locations were either informal, not community-wide, or one-time events.

Memorial Day celebrations were being held on May 30 across the country by the end of the 19th century. State legislatures designated the day with proclamations, while the Army and Navy adopted rules for proper commemoration at respective locations.

But the celebration of those who lost their lives in all American conflicts was not added until after World War I. Although it is still frequently referred to as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was officially proclaimed a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1971.

Then, like some other federal holidays, it was set to fall on the final Monday in May.

Some States Celebrate the Confederacy

Numerous Southern states also observe their own days to remember the fallen Confederates. Confederate Memorial Day is celebrated in Mississippi on the final Monday in April, in Alabama on the fourth Monday, and in Georgia on April 26.

On May 10 in North and South Carolina, June 3 in Louisiana, and May 10 in Tennessee, it is known as Confederate Decoration Day. Confederate Heroes Day is commemorated in Texas. Virginia declares the last Monday in May as Confederate Memorial Day on January 19.

We should maintain their graves with sacred vigilance, Gen. Logan urged in his 1868 order for his forces to adorn them with “the choicest flowers of springtime.” He also advised: “Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners.”

Let no carelessness or the effects of time show that we have forgotten what it takes to maintain a free and unified republic. About 5,000 individuals attended the inaugural Memorial Day celebration at Arlington National Cemetery, followed by a similar size crowd today.

In many national cemeteries, little American flags are still placed on each grave as they were then. In many families recently, it has been a tradition to adorn the graves of the departed loved ones.

Roots of Antiquity: Special Services to Remember Those Who Lost Their Lives in Battle

In honor of the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the country’s wars, Pericles, the leader of Athens, said:

“Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

This quote is from the Peloponnesian War, which took place over 24 centuries ago.

The “National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by the president in December 2000 to ensure that the sacrifices of America’s fallen heroes are never forgotten.

This law established the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s objective is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them with so much freedom and opportunity” through promoting and organizing Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance commemorations.

The National Moment of Remembrance calls on all Americans to take a moment of silence on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time to remember and honor those who have lost their lives serving the country.

As stated by Carmella LaSpada, the founder of Moment of Remembrance:

“It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

We here at Family Conservation PAC, our honored and privileged to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Happy Memorial Day, and remember why you celebrate this most revered holiday.

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