Memorial Day, which as originally known as Decoration Day – the tradition of decorating soldiers’ tombs and gravesites with flowers, was first attested in 1882 as a federal holiday for mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the armed forces (over 645,000 since WWI). On June 28, 1968, 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.
Unofficially marking the beginning of summer, Memorial Day often means parades, beach trips and backyard BBQs. But to many, it means visiting cemeteries and memorials to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Volunteers place American flags and flowers on graves of military personnel in national cemeteries, and the most solemn ceremonies occur when the president of the United States lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
There are two other holidays that celebrate those who have served or are serving in the U.S. military: Armed Forces Day (which is earlier in May), an unofficial U.S. holiday for honoring those currently serving in the armed forces, and Veterans Day (on November 11), which honors those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
How to Celebrate
Memorial Day is an important day for all of us, serving as a reminder to remember those who have fought for and served this country we call home. With the holiday weekend quickly approaching, we’ve put together a few Memorial Day celebration ideas on how you and your family can recognize this special day together.
This Memorial Day, make it all about spending time with loved ones as you remember those who have fought for your freedom, and enjoy a fantastic kick-off to summer.
- Attend A Ceremony. Many towns have parades and ceremonies on Memorial Day and some events even conclude with a memorial service. Take some time from prepping for BBQs or relaxing with friends and family to take advantage of what your town has to offer.
- Decorate with Flags. For many years, it has been a tradition to decorate graves of fallen soldiers with flags on Memorial Day. Another tradition is to fly the flag at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. If you have a flag pole, consider joining the tradition this year.
- Thank A Veteran. While Memorial Day is a time for remembering and honoring our fallen soldiers, it’s also a wonderful time to thank soldiers past and present who are right here in our midst today. Many of our employees, vendors or guests are veterans – thank you for your service. Don’t know a veteran or want to do more? Write a letter to a veteran or soldier! Check out OperationGratitude.com for more information about writing letters or sending care packages to soldiers currently deployed.
- Participate in our National Moment of Remembrance. In an effort to ensure Memorial Day is the sacred and noble holiday it is intended to be, the National Moment of Remembrance asks all of us to pause for 1 minute in an act of national unity wherever we are at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day.
- Buy A Poppy. During the days leading up to Memorial Day, members of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) accept donations for poppies. The poppy’s significance to Memorial Day derives from John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields.” Disabled and needy veterans in VA hospitals have been assembling Buddy Poppies since 1924. Purchase a poppy and your donation assists in maintaining state and national rehabilitation and service programs for veterans.
- Donate to the USO. The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. Victra is a proud supporter, and you can learn more and donate by clicking here or having your guests donate in store through RQ!