For many, knowledge of Memorial Day facts typically end at which month it is in, or at least, which season. Memorial Day falls on the last Monday in May, and this year, May 25 may look a little different for those of us who are maintaining safe social distance in the wake of Covid-19. While people have learned to adapt and create a new purpose for the way they spend their time, we have still found ways to keep holidays alive and meaningful. On social media, holidays surrounding veterans are often commemorated with gifs or memes about the “real meaning of the day”, and offer advice or trite sayings when it comes to the way people prefer to spend their time that day. To assist you with your commemorative plans or menus this season, Daily Mom is here to provide you with the 5 Memorial Day facts you should know.
1. Memorial Day Facts Date Back To The Civil War
The Civil War ended in the Spring of 1865 and claimed more lives than any other conflict in American History. So many lives were lost, in fact, that it required the creation of the United States’ first national cemeteries. In the late 1860s, towns began holding various tributes to their fallen soldiers, often decorating their graves with flowers and holding prayers in the cemeteries.
This early day of remembrance was known as “Decoration Day”.
2. Arlington Cemetery: More Than A Cemetery
The name of this national cemetery is widely known and recognized as a top tourist attraction in north America, but did you know that before it was a cemetery, it was a home? In fact, this estate was the confiscated property of Robert E. Lee.
On May 13, 1864, 21-year-old Private William Christman of Pennsylvania became the first military man buried at Arlington. To add insult to injury for the Lee family, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs instructed that graves should be placed as close to Lee’s mansion as possible. And, in 1866, he ordered that the remains of 2,111 unknown Civil War soldiers killed on battlefields near Washington, D.C., to be placed inside a vault in the Lees’ rose garden.
Read More: 5 Lesser-Known American Destinations
What started as a 200-acre estate has grown to over 600 acres and is the only national cemetery to contain the remains of soldiers from every major American conflict.
Many cities across the country observe this holiday by throwing parades. These parades often include military personnel and various organizations dedicated to helping veterans and their family members. While it may seem strange to commemorate such a somber reality with a parade, this tradition has a long history with many military branches.
Troops would march through the streets on their way to training or deployment, and the crowds would gather and cheer them on. Victors who championed their battles returned to shouts of praise and ticker-tape in the streets. Memorial Day facts have a long history and a long journey of development into the holiday we now know.
The largest national parade in observance of Memorial Day is in Washington DC. Each year, hundreds of thousands of spectators line Constitution Avenue to pay homage to the heroes of our country. This moving timeline of American Military History honors all fallen soldiers dating back to the Revolutionary War to call to attention the true meaning of this holiday.
4. The Date Changed
For roughly 100 years, Memorial Day fell on May 30. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and this was signed into law in 1971. This act affected not only Memorial Day, but Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day, President’s Day, and Labor Day. Veteran’s Day was moved back to its original date of November 11 in 1978.
The goal of this act was to increase the number of 3-day weekends for American workers, and it worked. However, many people feel that the idea of a “3-day holiday” to observe a solemn occasion shifts the focus of remembrance to one of celebration, and instead of visiting cemeteries and remembering the fallen, this holiday has become a day to get deals on furniture and used cars-not to mention great barbecue.
5. Memorial Day (Unofficially) Marks The Beginning Of Summer
Kicking off summer with a warm, sunny, 3-day weekend doesn’t sound so bad. Besides, it is a federal holiday so there is no reason to stay cooped up inside an office or house. This unofficial start to the summer holidays is exciting, but it is dangerously close to mixing lighthearted fun with a more somber reality. There is a definite balance that must be struck to observe this holiday properly.
While Memorial Day facts remind us of what our liberties cost, we are also given the gift of perspective. Many of us are surrounded by loved ones we have not lost, and we should live gratefully in light of that reality. On the other hand, taking a moment and spending some time in reflection builds a grateful spirit and an open mind.
This Memorial Day weekend, splash in the pool, have an extra hamburger and stay outside until the lightning bugs come out. Soak up the sweetness of this life, but take a moment to be mindful of why you have the privilege of enjoying it.
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