A United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in military service for the United States.
Many cities have laid claim to have begun Memorial Day, though President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day in May 1966.
While there is some dispute as to the origin of the day, the first was observed on May 30, 1868, under proclamation by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The first official observation involved placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
By 1890, it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honouring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honouring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honouring Americans who died fighting in any war).
Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 up to 1971 when the National Holiday Act of 1971, designated the last Monday in May to be Memorial Day.
Since the late 1950’s, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.
Since 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
What's the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day?
Memorial Day is intended to commemorate those who have laid down their lives for U.S. national defence, whereas Veterans Day honours all who have served their country.
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