Memorial Day or Decoration Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's...
armed forces. The holiday, is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May. The holiday was held on May 30 from 1868 to 1970.
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. 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.
The practice of decorating soldiers' graves with flowers is an ancient custom. Soldiers' graves were decorated in the U.S. before and during the American Civil War.
Some believe that an annual cemetery decoration practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the "memorial day" idea. Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are still held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountain areas. In cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried, this may take on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles. People gather, put flowers on graves and renew contacts with relatives and others. There often is a religious service and a picnic-like "dinner on the grounds," the traditional term for a potluck meal at a church.
On June 3, 1861, Warrenton, Virginia was the location of the first Civil War soldier's grave ever to be decorated, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper article in 1906. In 1862, women in Savannah, Georgia decorated Confederate soldiers' graves according to the Savannah Republican. The 1863 cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. On July 4, 1864, ladies decorated soldiers' graves according to local historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. and Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
In April 1865, following President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, commemorations were ubiquitous. The more than 600,000 soldiers of both sides who died in the Civil War meant that burial and memorialization took on new cultural significance. Under the leadership of women during the war, an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves had taken shape. In 1865, the federal government began creating national military cemeteries for the Union war dead.