The United States recognizes Federal Holidays as dates designated by the U.S. government as holidays, where non-essential government offices and most businesses are closed in commemoration and recognition of important dates. Of the 11 dates recognized as Federal Holidays, Memorial Day is one that many look forward to, with many considering it the unofficial start of summer. While we all love Memorial Day for the barbecues, spending time with friends and family and the three-day weekend, it is also important to remember the origin of the holiday and who it honors.
Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. The day was originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags, by General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans. First, a day to honor those lost during the Civil War, due to the United States' involvement in future wars, it was extended to honor all soldiers who have fallen and was officially declared a federal holiday in 1971.
There are a variety of ways Memorial Day is celebrated throughout the country. As part of Memorial Day commemorations, many Americans visit cemeteries and memorials to lay flowers and flags on fallen soldiers' graves. One of the most recognizable traditions is the wearing of poppies as a symbol of remembrance of those who have fallen in war. This tradition was inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields, written by WWI veteran, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
In addition to these gestures, parades take place throughout the U.S. with some of the largest in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. One of the most recognizable traditions is the commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery, which includes a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave and the laying of a wreath by the President or Vice President at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
So remember, when celebrating and having fun this weekend there is a reason why this is taking place. Take a moment this weekend and do something to honor those who gave their lives to protect us. Whether it's donating, placing a flag, or simply reflecting on the sacrifices made by others, you can honor those who are no longer with us.