Memorial Day

Memorial Day is an American federal holiday observed annually on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

By the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as people visited the graves of their deceased relatives in church cemeteries, whether they had served in the military or not. It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events.

Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountains. In cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried, this may take on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles. People gather on the designated day and put flowers on graves and renew contacts with kinfolk and others. There often is a religious service and a "dinner on the ground," the traditional term for a potluck meal in which people used to spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the "memorial day" idea.

Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead.

Read more about Memorial Day:  Early History, Name and Date, Traditional Observance, Start of Summer, Interpretations, In Literature and Music

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Famous quotes containing the words day and/or memorial:

    Day by day we hear the cry of AFRICA FOR THE AFRICANS. This cry has become a positive, determined one. It is a cry that is raised simultaneously the world over because of the universal oppression that affects the Negro.
    Marcus Garvey (1887–1940)

    I hope there will be no effort to put up a shaft or any monument of that sort in memory of me or of the other women who have given themselves to our work. The best kind of a memorial would be a school where girls could be taught everything useful that would help them to earn an honorable livelihood; where they could learn to do anything they were capable of, just as boys can. I would like to have lived to see such a school as that in every great city of the United States.
    Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906)