Memorial Day is a US federal holiday wherein the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered. The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May, was formerly known as Decoration Day and 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 while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
Every Memorial Day, families and communities across the nation take time to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. Americans observe this special holiday in many different ways. Review some of the most popular Memorial Day traditions and share your own below.
Displaying the Flag
On Memorial Day, the U.S. flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon. In the morning, the flag should be raised momentarily to the top and then lowered to half-staff. Americans can also honor prisoners of war and those missing in action by flying the POW/MIA flag.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because communities honored their war dead by decorating their graves with flowers. Many Americans make special flower arrangements and deliver them as a family to gravesites of their loved ones and ancestors.
Participating in the National Moment of Remembrance
There are a few people to remember as well. Make sure you think of who started it all.
Visiting Local Veterans Homes and Hospitals
Many living American veterans require long-term medical care or housing assistance, and they can often feel forgotten. The Memorial Day holiday is a great time to let them know that we appreciate their sacrifice and that of their families and their friends lost in battle.
Attending Memorial Day Parades
The Memorial Day parade is a time-honored tradition in cities and towns across America where neighbors come together to remember with pride those who sacrificed so much for our country.
Experiencing the Nation’s Memorials
Memorial Day can also be an opportunity to visit or read about the national memorials in Washington, D.C., as well as local memorials around the country.
Brushing Up on Family and American History
Memorial Day is a favorite time for Americans to read their family history, look at old photographs, and learn about their ancestors, especially those who died in the service of their nation. It’s also an occasion for reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and other historic and patriotic speeches by presidents and leaders of the armed services.
Wearing Memorial Day Poppies
The tradition of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day was inspired by the 1915 poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrea. War worker Moina Michael made a personal pledge to always wear red silk poppies as an emblem for “keeping the faith with all who died,” and began a tradition that was adopted in the United States, England, France, Australia and more than 50 other countries.
Last but not least: Remember that we still have troups in Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine. Bring our boys home.