Memorial Day is synonymous with the beginning of summer.
But more importantly, Memorial Day is a very special moment when we pause to remember all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for the values we hold dear.
Here are 5 little known facts about Memorial Day:
Memorial Day Was a Spontaneous Response to Civil War Devastation
Memorial Day started as a grief-stricken public tried to comprehend and respond to the staggering losses suffered during the America’s Civil War. Over 600,000 soldiers were lost on both sides and the effect on communities across the nation spurred spontaneous commemorations of the dead.
- As early as 1864, immediately following the battle of Gettysburg, people (especially women) began to lay flowers on the graves of those who had been lost.
- Two years later, Civil War veterans marched through Carbondale, Illinois in memory of the fallen while Union Major General John Logan delivered an official address. (This is why Carbondale claims to be the first place to recognize an organized Memorial Day.)
- Carbondale’s claim to fame has been somewhat forgotten; Congress officially recognizes Waterloo, New York as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day Started out as Decoration Day
Because of the tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. The Decoration Day name didn’t really disappear until after World War II; however, it wasn’t until 1967 that Memorial Day was finally declared the official name by Federal Law.
It’s Not Really a National Holiday
There are only 10 federal holidays created by Congress, Memorial Day included. But Federal holidays apply only to Federal employees (and Washington, D.C.)
For the rest of the country and non-federal employees, the holiday was adopted on a state-by-state basis. New York was the first to declare in 1873. By 1890, most of the northern states had also made it a legal holiday. But the southern states refrained from making Memorial Day a legal holiday until its meaning had been applied to all veterans of all U.S. wars.
Watch for Motorcycles – Especially in the Nation’s Capitol
National veterans rights organization Rolling Thunder is named for the B-52 carpet-bombings during the Vietnam War.
In 1988, the group held their first motorcycle rally in Washington, D.C over Memorial Day weekend because they wanted the government to recognize and protect Prisoners of War (POWs) and soldiers Missing in Action (MIAs).
What started with about 2,500 bikers and onlookers has grown into an annual demonstration drawing nearly one million participants a year.
Honoring Two Important Traditions
Last, but certainly not least are the unifying national traditions that help us honor the fallen and celebrate our freedom.
- A moment of national unity: The National Moment of Remembrance, created by President Bill Clinton 15 years ago, asks all Americans to pause and observe one minute of silence at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day… It’s a moment to “remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.”
- Fly your flag: If you have a flag at work or at home, it’s customary to fly the flag at half staff until noon. After noon, raise the flag to the top until the sun sets.
So I hope you enjoy this special Memorial Day Weekend which brings with it the promise of long summer days.
One great way to do that is with this special Memorial Day Recipe for Umami Almond, Quinoa, and Sun-Dried Tomato Burgers brought to us by the illustrious Dreena Burton.
Make sure to…
Enjoy your friends and family.
And reflect about those who have sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy these simple but treasured freedoms.