Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and started a few years after the bloodiest and costliest battle in US history ended. This war we know today as the Civil War. What many thought would be a quick war between the Northern states and the seceding Southern states, the Civil War lasted for four years and over 600,000 people died during the war’s tenure.
It is not known when Memorial Day began because many communities had some sort of remembrance service for the soldiers. However, in 1966, a town in New York State called Waterloo, was declared the first place in the United States to have officially started the holiday, by the US government. It was the first recorded place to have a big celebration and closed businesses and schools and the local residents went to the cemetery to adorn the graves of the fallen soldiers with flags and flowers. in remembrance of them. The date was May 5, 1866.
In 1868, General John A. Logan, a former general in the Civil War, was now a congressman, sponsored a piece of legislation called General Order #11. In it he proposed that May 30 be a special day of remembrance for the fallen soldiers. In the order, the general writes:
The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
May 30th was chosen because there was no specific battle won or lost on that day in the Civil War. It would become to be known as Decoration Day. On the very first celebration of Decoration Day, President Garfield made a speech at Arlington National cemetery and there were about 5,000 participants there and they decorated the graves of 20,000 Civil War soldiers.
It wasn’t until after World War I that Decoration Day was celebrated to honor all soldiers from all wars that The US was involved in. Then in 1971, Decoration Day would become Memorial Day and was declared a national holiday, to fall on the last Monday in May, so Federal employees would have a three-day weekend to honor and celebrate those who fought for our freedoms.
Many cities and towns celebrate by decorating graves and visiting memorials. Parades were, and still are, were held by these cities and towns in remembrance. People have also held parties and cook-outs to celebrate Memorial Day and unofficially use the day as the start of the summer season.
As always, if you can read this article, thank a teacher. If you live in the US and can read it in American English, thank a soldier.
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