If you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance you Googled, “What is Memorial Day?” because you’re wondering what we owe this three day weekend to.
It isn’t all ab out barbecue, swimming pools, beaches and boating at the lake, though that is the way we tend to celebrate it. Americans commonly treat Memorial Day as the kickoff to summer, and in some respects it is. Schools across the country have let out, the weather is getting warmer, and summer vacations are about to start.
However, you might have figured out from all of the American Flags you are seeing and the word “Memorial” that this celebratory day’s origins are quite sombre.
Memorial Day is the day we honor American soldiers who died in battle. It is a day to memorialize those who gave their lives so that we could have the freedom not just to enjoy summer as we please, but to have the freedom to assemble, the freedom to believe what we choose without government interference, the right to say what we think and believe without government intervention, and a slew of other freedoms that Americans have fought and died for over the years.
Yes, it is the unofficial start of summer, but it is also a day when we remember and memorialize brave men and women who put their nation above even their own lives.
Origins of Memorial Day
Memorial Day didn’t get its official designation until 1967, but the holiday was first celebrated in 1868 to honor those who died in the Civil War. The holiday’s history is also intertwined with several confederate memorial day holidays that dotted the map during the post Civil War era.
In some areas it was called Decoration Day and in others Memorial Day, and was officially designated as Memorial Day by the U.S. Government in 1967. The next year, Congress passed an act that made federal holidays fall on Mondays across the board, which is why you have a three day weekend and why Memorial Day always falls on Monday.
One More Note
Memorial Day is specifically for soldiers who died. Veterans Day is the day that we designate for those who have served in the military. Since Memorial Day honors the dead, you should think twice before wishing a living veteran a happy Memorial Day and thanking them for their service.
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