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Memorial Day Meaning, Facts, and Celebration Ideas

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Memorial Day: A day dedicated to fallen heroes of all U.S. wars and service

Memorial Day: A day dedicated to fallen heroes of all U.S. wars and service

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.

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.

Memorial Day Celebration Ideas

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.

Grilled Items

  • Hamburgers
  • Hotdogs
  • BBQ Chicken
  • Corn-on-the-Cob


  • Potato Salad
  • Broccoli Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Pasta Salad
  • Fruit Salad


  • Taco Dip
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Veggies and Dip
  • S'mores
  • Potato Chips
  • Pretzels


  • Red, white, and blue trifle
  • Red, white, and blue frosted cookies

A Few Recipes to Get Your BBQ Started

Most people consider Memorial Day to be the unofficial start to summer.

Most people consider Memorial Day to be the unofficial start to summer.

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, and 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.


Questions & Answers

Question: Doesn't Memorial Day fall on May 30th?

Answer: It's May 28th in 2018.

© 2012 Marissa


Marissa (author) from United States on May 23, 2013:

RTalloni , danicole , and KellyPittman, thank you all so much for reading and commenting!

Kelly Pittman from South Louisiana on May 22, 2013:

Love this Hub. Voted Useful, Awesome and Interesting and Shared!

danicole from United States on May 21, 2013:

This article is very detailed I like it :) Memorial Day is about honoring the deaths of soldiers, praying for the men and women in the military and showing how much you love, appreciate and care about love ones. Beautiful Article :) ...... btw I have one too, made it last year but updated it .... Have a wonderful weekend :)

RTalloni on May 21, 2013:

Thank you for an interesting look at Memorial Day's history and ways to observe it. Getting kids involved is so important. Linking to mine on Memorial Day--thanks again!

Marissa (author) from United States on May 27, 2012:

danicole, welcome to HubPages! Thanks for reading and commenting!

danicole from United States on May 27, 2012:

Cool nice hub I wrote my first article today (i actually joined today 5 hours ago :D) about the history of Memorial Day check it out. Hope to be hubbing with you :)

Marissa (author) from United States on May 23, 2012:

FireCracker408, I'm glad you agree that it is important to teach younger generations about the importance of Memorial Day. :)

Thanks for reading and commenting!

FireCracker408 from Long Island, NY on May 23, 2012:

Wow! This is a great Hub! I think is really important for the younger generations to realize the true meaning of the upcoming weekend! Also I'm new to the Hub world and after seeing yours I'm realizing I need to add LOTS of pizazz!

Marissa (author) from United States on May 22, 2012:

thebookmom, aw, thanks! I'm glad you liked it! :)

thebookmom from Nebraska on May 22, 2012:

WOW! This hub is amazing. So complete and full of great and of course, practical ideas. Really well done!

Marissa (author) from United States on May 22, 2012:

Debbie, thank you very much! Happy Memorial Day to you as well. :)

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on May 22, 2012:

love this hub.. great ideas.. and happy Memorial day to you


Marissa (author) from United States on May 22, 2012:

Rosemary Banks, I completely agree: all Americans should honor this important holiday in some way. Thank you for reading and commenting! :)

Marissa (author) from United States on May 22, 2012:

Sunshine625, thank you for reading and commenting! I'm glad you liked the hub! :D

Rosemary Banks on May 22, 2012:

It's a very important holiday and all Americans should honor it in some way.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on May 22, 2012:

Good points! Great tips! This hub made me hungry, want to do crafts and ready to salute a soldier! Excellent article!