While we’re putting those steaks on the BBQ and enjoying our long 3 day weekend with friends and family, we thought it fitting to take a moment to remember the true meaning and history of Memorial Day in honor of those who have served. Here are some interesting facts and other Memorial Day trivia.
Memorial Day was originally known as “Decoration Day” as the original tradition was to decorate soldiers’ tombs on this day. Today, there are many people and groups who continue this tradition.
The name “Memorial Day” was first used in 1882, but it did not become popular until after World War II. It was not until 1967 that the name actually became official.
The holiday was originally celebrated on May 30th of every year. It was celebrated nationally for the first time on May 30, 1868. The date was specifically chosen, because it did not fall on the anniversary of any particular American battle.
Other notable dates in 1868:
- February 16 – In New York City the Jolly Corks organization is renamed the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE).
- February 24 – The first parade to have floats occurs at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- April 10 – Battle of Magdala: A British-Indian task force inflicts 700 deaths and a crushing defeat on the army of Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia; the British and Indians suffer 30 wounded, 2 of whom die subsequently.
- May 16 – President Andrew Johnson is acquitted during his impeachment trial, by one vote in the United States Senate.
- May 26 – Fenian bomber Michael Barrett becomes the last person publicly hanged in Britain.
- May 30 – Memorial Day is observed in the United States for the first time (it was proclaimed on May 5 by General John A. Logan).
- July 9 – The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, is ratified.
- July 25 – Wyoming becomes a United States territory.
- July 28 – The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution is adopted, legally, if not actually, guaranteeing African Americans full citizenship and equal protection and all persons in the United States due process of law.
- October 6 – The City of New York grants Mount Sinai Hospital a 99-year lease for a property on Lexington Avenue and 66th Street, for the sum of $1.00.
- October 10 – Carlos Manuel de Céspedes declares a revolt against Spanish rule in Cuba in an event known as El Grito de Yara, initiating a war that lasts ten years (Cuba ultimately loses the war at a cost of 400,000 lives and widespread destruction).
- October 28 – Thomas Edison applies for his first patent, the electric vote recorder.
- November 3 – U.S. presidential election, 1868: Ulysses S. Grant defeats Horatio Seymour in the election.
- November 27 – Indian Wars – Battle of Washita River: In the early morning, United States Army Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer leads an attack on a band of Cheyenne living on reservation land with Chief Black Kettle, killing 103 Cheyenne.
- December 9 – The world’s first traffic signal lights were installed at the junction of Great George Street and Bridge Street in the London borough of Westminster.
- December 25 – U.S. President Andrew Johnson grants unconditional pardon to all Civil War rebels.
A “Moment of Remembrance” takes place nationwide every Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time.
As you pause for a moment of remembering, here is a beautiful montage video set to [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Tim McGraw[/lastfm]’s “If You’re Reading This.”
[photogallerylink id=79328 align=right]The date wasn’t changed to “the last Monday of May” until 1968, when the Federal Government passed the Uniform Holidays Bill. The law came into effect in 1971. The date was changed along with Veterans Day, as well as the celebration of President Washington’s birthday, in order to create several three-day weekends.
The changing of the date remains a controversy to this very day as some believe it undermined the importance of the day, and encouraged the modern observance of the holiday as a day of leisure.
2011-12 Three Day Weekends:
- Monday, May 30, 2011 – Memorial Day
- Monday, July 4, 2011 – Independence Day
- Monday, September 5, 2011 – Labor Day
- Monday, October 10, 2011 – Columbus Day
- Friday, November 11, 2011 – Veterans Day
- Monday, December 26, 2011 – ‘Christmas Day’ observed
- Monday, January 2, 2012 – New Year’s Day
- Monday, January 16, 2012 – Martin Luther King Day
- Monday, February 20, 2012 – Presidents’ Day
- Monday, May 28, 2012 – Memorial Day
- Monday, September 3, 2012 – Labor Day
- Monday, October 8, 2012 – Columbus Day
- Monday, November 12, 2012 – ‘Veterans Day’ observed
U.S. Congress and the president signed into law in December 2000 the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” and created the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, in order to ensure the sacrifices of America’s fallen heroes are never forgotten.
Memorial Day is also celebrated annually at the Arlington National Cemetery, where about 5,000 people attend, and place American flags on each grave.
The oldest, continuously running Memorial Day parade takes place every year in Ironton, Ohio. It has run since 1869.
Get details on Memorial Day events in the Detroit Metro area at CBS Local Detroit!