Although many Americans view Memorial Day as the official start to summer activities, a day for more sales at the mall, or simply a nice day off of work, the holiday is much more than that.
Originally, the day was called “Decoration Day” because it was the day for Americans to quite literally decorate the graves soldiers who had died in the Civil War.
History.com has some wonderful information about the history of Memorial Day and how it is observed as well as links to images, battle maps, and veteran resources. According to the site, several towns both in the north and the south take credit for being the “birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Miss.; Macon, Ga.; Richmond, Va.; Boalsburg, Pa.; and Carbondale, Ill.” It wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., as the official birthplace. “They chose Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.”(http://www.history.com/content/memorial/the-history-of-memorial-day)
Another nice Website about the holiday is by the US White House Commission on Remembrance. (http://www.remember.gov/) Their missions include:
- Promoting the spirit of unity and remembrance through observance of The National Moment of Remembrance at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day
- Ensuring the nation remembers the sacrifices of America’s fallen from the Revolutionary War to the present;
- Recognizing those who have served and those who continue to serve our great nation and reminding all Americans of our common heritage.
According to the Library of Congress Website, a 1971 federal law, “changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars. A few states continue to celebrate Memorial Day on May 30.” The Website is full of interesting resources about Memorial Day: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/may30.htm
For more information about the holiday, please check out the resources available at Rohrbach Library in our physical collections (see the online catalog) as well as our virtual resources (databases). Have a wonderful holiday.