Memorial Day Meaning, Facts, and Celebration Ideas
Date of Memorial Day
Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. Here are the next few dates for this annual holiday:
- 2017: May 29
- 2018: May 28
- 2019: May 27
Memorial Day Meaning and Facts
If you were asked what Memorial Day was about, how would you respond? You would most likely answer that it is a three-day weekend for family and friend get-togethers or picnics. You would be right, in a way, because that is how most Americans view the holiday.
That was not the day's intended purpose, however, when people back in the mid-1800s wanted to honor their fallen soldiers after the close of the American Civil War.
Many men died during the Civil War, the brutal war between the North and South. After the conflict ended, people were looking for ways to honor the men who had died fighting. In 1864, a group of women in Pennsylvania began visiting the graves of the deceased soldiers, placing flowers on them in memory of their service. In 1866, after word spread about visiting and decorating the graves, women in Mississippi began doing the same thing. This is how the day became known first as "Decoration Day."
It didn't originally begin as a nationwide celebration. Waterloo, NY, is the first place that officially celebrated the holiday, and it spread from there. Other towns and cities have claimed to be the first, but it is Waterloo that holds the title.
On May 5, 1868, General John Logan made the day official. Flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at the Arlington National Cemetery.
After World War II, it became a day to honor all deceased veterans of any war or service instead of just those who had died in the Civil War. It never became a national holiday, as some think it is. Rather, it became a Federal holiday to allow Civil War veterans the opportunity to help decorate graves at cemeteries without losing any pay.
I'm Proud to Be an American
How to Properly Observe Memorial Day
Here are some ways you can properly observe this holiday, along with attending your annual family or friend gatherings:
- Visit cemeteries and place flowers and flags on the graves of fallen heroes.
- Visit memorials dedicated to veterans.
- Fly the flag at half-staff until noon.
- Pause at 3 p.m. for the National Moment of Remembrance.
- Visit disabled or wounded veterans and thank them for their service.
Taps at Arlington National Cemetery
Memorial Day Celebrations
How do you celebrate Memorial Day?
Here are some things you can do to celebrate with family and friends:
- Attend a parade. Many towns and parades have annual parades. Wear your best red, white, and blue, and attend the parade!
- Have a picnic. Picnics are very popular on this holiday. Every year, after decorating the graves of veterans from my family, my family gathers at a state park and has a large picnic where we spend the day together.
- Host a BBQ potluck. Gather your family and friends at your house and host a BBQ potluck. Everyone should bring at least one food item or drink that goes great with BBQ.
A Memorial Day Picnic Menu
At our annual family Memorial Day picnic, we have so many great foods from which to choose:
- BBQ Chicken
- Potato Salad
- Broccoli Salad
- Macaroni Salad
- Pasta Salad
- Fruit Salad
- Taco Dip
- Fresh Fruit
- Veggies and Dip
- Potato Chips
- Red, white, and blue trifle
- Red, white, and blue frosted cookies
A Few Recipes to Get Your BBQ Started
- Indoor S'mores Recipe : Easy and Delicious!
Want to make s'mores but can't make them outside? Try Indoor S'mores! Here's my quick and easy indoor s'mores recipe.
- How To Grill Fruit: Grilling Recipes
Grilling fruit is an excellent way to bring out the natural sugars and intensify flavors of your food
- Spanish Olive Pasta Salad and 10 Other Vegetarian Pasta Salad Recipes
This can be used as a light main dish for a meal, especially these vegetarian pastas, or as a tasty side dish.
- How To Make The Ultimate Macaroni Salad
Macaroni salad is just one of those great comfort foods, and can be enjoyed any time of the year.
Activities for Kids
Here are some celebratory and potentially educational activities for kids:
- Learn about the American flag and what it symbolizes.
- Learn about veterans and why we should remember their service.
- Write an acrostic poem using the following words: freedom, remembrance, veteran, Memorial Day.
- Write thank you notes to veterans and deliver them to those at hospitals or nursing homes.
- Make your own parade with flags, homemade instruments, and red, white, and blue outfits.
Remember to take lots of pictures, especially if your kids decide to hold a parade. These pictures can be great memories, as well as great additions to the thank you notes to veterans.
Memorial Day: Remember Our Fallen Heroes, and Enjoy the Company of Friends and Family
No matter what you do on Memorial Day with your family or friends, take some time to remember the true meaning of the holiday: to honor the deceased veterans who have served our country and fought for our freedoms.
Without their sacrifices, we wouldn't be the great country we are today.
Source for Historical Background of Memorial Day
- U.S. Memorial Day History and Information on U.S. War Memorials
A wonderful website dedicated to all things related to Memorial Day History.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Marissa