Memorial Day


Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May in the United States of America. It is observed to remember and honor the military personnel who died while serving the United States Armed Forces. Memorial Day has historically been celebrated on 30th May from 1868 to 1970 but now the holiday is observed on the last Monday of May.

On Memorial Day, cemeteries and memorials are visited by the people to honor martyrs of the military. An American flag is placed on each grave in national cemeteries by volunteers. It is considered an unofficial start of the summer in the US. There are another two days celebrated for those who have served or who serve the armed forces i.e. Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day.

Origins of Memorial Day

The origin of Memorial Day in the US is complex. Approximately 25 places have been claimed to have originated the holiday by the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs. It is an ancient custom to decorate soldiers’ graves with flowers. Before and during American Civil War, soldiers’ graves were decorated.

The historic precedents for Memorial Day date back to 1865 in Virginia, South Carolina, and Mississippi. Virginia was the first place where the Civil War soldiers’ graves were decorated.

Decoration Day

General John A. Logan who was a leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans on 5th May 1868 called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. Decoration Day’s date was not chosen as the anniversary of any particular battle. General James Garfield delivered a speech on the first Decoration Day at Arlington National Cemetery.

The graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers’ graves were decorated on that day.
Similar commemorative events were organized by the many Northern States in subsequent years. Decoration Day was declared a holiday by these states by 1890. The homage was paid to the fallen soldiers in different dates in the Southern States until the first World War.

Early Observance of Memorial Day

Americans in various cities and towns by the 1860s began to hold springtime tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Civil War by decorating their graves. It is not clear that when this observance started. It is reported that the earliest observance was started by freed slaves’ groups in Charleston, South Carolina.

Celebrations of this kind had begun less than a month after Confederacy surrendered in 1865.Waterloo, New York was declared the official birthplace of Memorial Day by the federal government in 1966. It was chosen because on May 5th, 1866 an annual event was hosted at this place during which graves of soldiers were decorated.

Confederate Memorial Day

In 1874, the first official celebration of Confederate Memorial Day as a public holiday was declared by the legislature of Georgia. The term “Confederate” was added to the celebrations by some southern public figures in 1868. It was celebrated by 10 states on 3rd June. 3rd June is also the birthday of CSA President Jefferson Davis.

The role played by the Ladies’ Memorial Association in Memorial Day rituals was significant and meant to preserve Confederate culture. Women played a vital role in paying homage to the Confederate dead.

Celebration After Civil War

In the beginning, Memorial Day as Decoration Day was observed to honor only those who lost their lives during the American Civil War. Civil War is an event that claimed more lives than any other conflict in the history of the US. The early observance was started by the freed slaves after the war ended in 1865.

People started to decorate the graves of the martyrs of the Civil War by the end of the 19th century. It started in the southern States and then gradually expanded to the whole US.

Memorial Day Traditions

On the Memorial Day, parades are hosted by each city and town in the US. These parades incorporate members of the veterans and military personnel organizations. New York, Chicago, and Washington DC are the places where the largest parades are organized.
The cemeteries and memorials are visited by people in observance of this day.

A red poppy is worn by some people in remembrance of the soldiers fallen in war. Barbecues, trips, and parties are organized on this holiday. These are organized because it is unofficial beginnings of summer.

Concerts and Parades

Parades are the special symbol of Memorial Day. Thousands of parades are arranged across the US. The main feature of these parades is military themes along with National Guard, Reserve, Duty, and Veterans service members which take part in military vehicles from different wars. These parades give a message of nationalism.

Concerts are also arranged to remember the martyrs. The poem “Decoration Day” is played everywhere which depicts the holiday. Songs and poems are also played on every event regarding this day.

Cemetery Decorations

The decoration of cemeteries and graves is the oldest tradition of Memorial Day. It leads back to the end of the Civil War and even during it. The cemetery decorations have been recorded in the Appalachian regions of Tennessee, northern Georgia, West Virginia, northern Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama.

The southern decoration was originated back in the 19th century. Many volunteers place an American flag on the graves of the martyrs. Flowers are also placed on the graves of the dead. Families have fixed different days other than Memorial Day to decorate the graves.


  • Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May.
  • The Memorial Day was originally celebrated on May 30 until 1970.
  • The Memorial Day is celebrated to commemorate the American soldiers who died in combat while serving the country.
  • The day is marked by visiting the graves of the soldiers and decorating them.
  • Thousands of commemorative parades take place on the Memorial Day.
  • The Memorial Day is regarded as the unofficial start of summer in the United States.
  • Memorial Day traces its origins back to precedents in both the South and the North. In the South, the Memorial Day became closely associated with remembrances of the Confederate cause.