Memorial Day Weekend History and Why It’s Honoured
Considered the unofficial start to the summer, Memorial Day Weekend has come and almost gone. With today officially being Memorial Day, the lives and services of veterans are being honoured around the country. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss the importance of this day and how you, too, can thank those who risked their lives for our safety.
What is Memorial Day?
Logistically, Memorial Day is the last Monday in May. It honours the military personnel who died while serving in the US Armed Forces. There are also two other military days celebrated in the year:
- Armed Forces Day (earlier in May) which honours those currently serving in the army.
- Veterans Day (November 11th) which honours those who previously served in the army.
While the practise of decorating soldier’s graves is an ancient custom, the history of Memorial Day Weekend in US is rather debated. Some originate it somewhere before or during the American Civil War. Southern women would annually hold somber occasions for veterans and their families to honour the dead and tend to local cemeteries. Hence, the day was originally known as Decoration Day — becoming a federal holiday in 1971.
Following Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, commemorations were more widespread. Formal practises of mourning took shape consistently across the country.
By the 20th century, these mortal traditions merged to form Memorial Day to honour all Americans who died performing any US military service. This included those who found in World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also stood to mobilise public support for pensions and the support of veterans post-tour.
Many countries around the world have their hold commemorative day to honour those who died in battle for their country and the peace of the world.
How is it Honoured?
So, now we know what Memorial Day Weekend is but, how is it honoured? Read below to find out!
Visiting graves and military cemeteries is common practise on Memorial Day. Flowers and other remembrance items are often left. Some people wear poppies so represent those lost. This is because it has ties to a World War I poem.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:John McCrae
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
On a less sombre foot, many people hold barbecues and parties because the day represents the start of the summer.
Led my veterans and current military personal parades happen across the country. The largest Memorial Day Weekend parades are in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.