The Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day and Veterans Day have a long and storied history. They began as two special days in our country’s history, Decoration Day and Armistice Day.  The first came into existence after the end of the Civil War almost 150 years ago as visitors to cemeteries in both the North and the South honored the war dead by “decorating” tombstones and gravesites with fresh flowers.  The latter holiday signified the end of the fighting on the Western front of the Great War (World War I) at the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in 1918.  Again, that day was to honor those who died in that war.  Since the advent of both holidays, there have been quite a few changes, however.

Although Decoration Day began to be known as “Memorial Day” beginning in 1882, it was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967.  The following year, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, moving the celebration (which had always been on May 30) to the last Monday in May instead so that Americans could have a convenient three-day weekend, thereby “announcing” the unofficial beginning of summer.  That same bill also moved Armistice Day–better known since the end of World War II as Veterans Day–to a Monday.  (Because of public furor, however, the official celebration of that day was moved back to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.)

The Gallery Collection features several patriotic Christmas cards, the designs of which are perfect for holidays such as Memorial Day and Independence Day or even Veterans Day for those who are inclined to send out cards commemorating those days. It’s a wonderful way to remember those who have given so much.

Both holidays were meant to be special days on which the United States and its people would honor those who fought and/or died in all the wars in our country’s history, for which these special days are now known.  Although this is still the thought and practice for many people, over time thinking about our fighting men and women on these days has become much less important, having been replaced by visits to the mall or to the beach or staying at home and enjoying barbeques or video games during the long weekends. With U.S. military personnel serving all over the world–especially in far-away places like Afghanistan–and with the news of the demise of Osama bin Laden at the beginning of this month, a real sense of patriotism is in order for this Memorial Day.  Certainly having fun with family and friends and enjoying the warmer weather during the holiday weekend is a great thing.  But let us not forget how wonderful it is to have the freedoms we cherish in this country, thanks to those who came before us and those who continue to serve in our armed forces.  That’s what these holidays are all about.

2 thoughts on “The Meaning of Memorial Day”

  1. Some people forget the meaning of Memorial Day and only think of it as another day off. You should all take a moment to at least think about the troops that keep our shores safe each day!

  2. I like how at my family barbeque for Memorial Day, my grandfather always gives a speech about the troops. It reminds everyone about the true meaning of the holiday!

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