History and Traditions of Memorial Day in the USA
This year we celebrate Memorial Day on Monday, May 29. It is a formal holiday in our country that honors the members of the military service who sacrificed their lives being in the line of duty. Originally, the holiday was known as Decoration Day because of the ritual of decorating the graves of the servicemen who died during the Civil War.
History of Memorial Day
The holiday’s area of origin is still the subject of debate. During 1861 – 1865, the groups of people started to decorate the graves of their close people who died during the battles of the Civil War. Different sources name at least a dozen of places that claim to be the hometown of Memorial Day. Columbus, Mississippi; Carbondale, Illinois; Macon, Georgia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Richmond, Virginia are among them.
According to some sources, Columbus, Mississippi, is the hometown of the holiday. On April 25, 1866, a group of local women decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers. After having noticed the graves of the servicemen, they made up their minds to decorate them with flags and flowers too. The website usmemorialday.org argues that the hymn Kneel Where Our Loved Ones are Sleeping was dedicated to “the Ladies of the South who Decorated the Graves of the Confederate Dead.” On the contrary, Wikipedia mentions that the practice of decorating soldiers’ graves had become popular in the North by 1865. As a result, one may conclude that the tradition originated in many towns independently containing different variations of the same intent.
In Waterloo, NY, Henry Welles offered to close his drug store and other shops in the town on May 5, 1866, to honor the local soldiers who died during the Civil War. In 1868, General John Logan made a declaration that proposed to observe Decoration Day nationwide. History.com mentions that President James Garfield delivered a speech on that day in honor of the servicemen who were the victims of the Civil War. In 1966, the US Congress and President Lyndon Johnson admitted that Waterloo should be called the birthplace of Memorial Day that originated on May 30, 1868.
Decoration Day was renamed into Memorial Day in 1882. It also included a tradition to honor all soldiers who died in different American Wars after the World War I. Richard Nixon made Memorial Day state holiday in 1971.
Modern Traditions of Memorial Day
Today, Memorial Day is celebrated across the country and serves to remind us about the real cost of any war. Many formal ceremonies are organized by local communities in honor of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. There are two inseparable traditions on Memorial Day, namely the moments of silence and laying of the wreath at the Arlington Cemetery.