Memorial Day, formerly referred to as Decoration Day, is an American Holiday, held in observance to honor all of the US men and women who gave their lives in military service to the nation. Memorial Day is an official federal holiday and is observed on the last Monday in May every year.
Honoring the brave soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, and in their service to their country has been an age-old tradition. Decoration Day, as Memorial Day was previously referred to, was first observed following the Civil War. The nation held great respect for the slain soldiers. General John Logan, the leader of an organization for Civil War veterans of the Northern States, is believed to have introduced the observance of Decoration Day in 1868. He proclaimed that flowers would be strewn on the graves of all soldiers who died in the war on May 30th. Over 5,000 people assembled at the Arlington National Cemetery on the first Decoration Day and decorated the graves of over 20,000 fallen soldiers.
For a long time, Decoration Day was observed on May 30th. Almost a century later, in 1968, the US Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and with its passage, Memorial Day replaced Decoration Day and was established on the last Monday in May each year.
The usual observances on Memorial Day include visiting the graves of soldiers who died in their service to the nation, laying of flags, wreaths, and flowers on their graves and war memorials, and honoring veterans. Grand military parades are also held in different parts of the country on this day. Waterloo in New York is considered the birthplace of Memorial Day and is the center of many activities related to the observance.
Memorial Day is also popularly considered the beginning of summer.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day, an observance held on November 11th in honor of all veterans of the US Armed Forces.