Memorial Day means more than just an extra day off, a big car race or even the unofficial start of summer. It is a day of reflection when we remember and thank those who gave their lives in service of our country. Our hearts go out to the over one million brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and to the families they left behind. May God bless and keep you all.
The History Channel offers some insight into both the holiday's origin and traditions below:
Memorial Day History:
Memorial Day (as Decoration Day gradually came to be known) originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Memorial Day Traditions:
Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.
Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.