By Carole Copeland Thomas, MBA, CDMP
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who died in service to their country. The holiday was officially proclaimed in 1868 to honor Union and Confederate soldiers and was expanded after World War I to honor those who died in all wars. Today, Memorial Day honors over one million men and women who have died in military service since the Civil War.
By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.
My Memories: Town Gatherings, Celebrations, Parades and The Gettysburg Address
Remembering the Gettysburg Address is frequently a symbolic part of Memorial Day traditions. Years ago my daughter, Lorna, recited the Gettysburg Address during a town wide program, while her sister, Michelle, and brother, Mikey, played the flute and saxophone with the school band. I believe the program took place in the town cemetery to honor our war dead.
From Decoration Day To Memorial Day
What is “decorated?” Gravestones and cemetery plots of deceased soldiers who died in military service.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from "Decoration Day" to "Memorial Day", which was first used in 1882. It did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress' change of date within a few years.
Sources: www.census.gov and wikipedia.org
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