Decoration Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May. This year it will be celebrated on May 29. It is an American holiday that honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Nowadays, this celebration is known as Memorial Day. It originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Visiting cemeteries or memorials, participating in parades, and holding family gatherings are the most common ways to celebrate this day.
History of Decoration Day
Decoration Day, now Memorial Day, is a special celebration to honor our veterans and remember those who died while in the armed services. It originated in the aftermath of the Civil War. Families and brothers-in-arms of the fallen on both sides of that conflict, north, and south, came together in commemoration by laying flowers on the graves of the dead, in honor of their sacrifice. The Civil War ended in 1865 and claimed more lives than any other conflict in U.S. history.
Although it is unclear where this tradition originated; different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings for their relatives who died. Some records show that one of the earliest commemorations of Memorial Day was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. However, the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966.
While Decoration Day originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War, it evolved to also commemorate all American military personnel who died during military operations, including during World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed by Congress, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. Moreover, the same law declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Decoration Day timeline
Americans in various towns and cities begin to hold springtime tributes for the countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
The Civil War ends and claims more lives than any conflict in U.S. history.
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act is passed, establishing Memorial Day as the last Monday in May.
Memorial Day becomes an official federal holiday throughout the United States.
Decoration Day FAQs
What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?
Both days aim to honor those who have served in the military. But Memorial Day particularly honors those who were killed during their service, and Veterans Day honors all those who have served.
What flower is a symbol to soldiers?
The official flower of The American Legion family to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during the war is the poppy.
Why is it held in May?
May does not commemorate any specific war and it is also the month in which flowers are abundant all over the U.S.A.
How to Observe Decoration Day
Share an awareness post on social media
Use this day to raise awareness about what American veterans did to defend the United States. Sharing information is a good way to honor them.
Join a Memorial Day event
Join one of the many events organized in towns and cities across America. There are parades, festivals and even firework shows that the whole family can enjoy.
Decorate a grave
This celebration used to be called Decoration Day because veterans´ graves were decorated. This was a way to honor and remember those who died in the war.
5 Interesting Facts About Decoration Day
Flags fly at half-staff
Raise the flag to full staff at sunrise and then slowly lower it to half-staff; at midday, raise the flag to full staff.
Why people wear red poppies
The poem “In Flanders Fields” inspired Moin Michael to begin a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of tribute to veterans.
Confederate Memorial Day
Some Southern States also celebrate the Confederate fallen soldiers in April.
A moment to remember
There is a National Moment of Remembrance at three p.m. on this day.
Freed slaves contributed to establishing the day
At the end of the Civil War, more than 1,000 freed slaves honored fallen soldiers in a ceremony where they sang hymns and handed out flowers.
Why Decoration Day is Important
It is a day to give thanks
On this day we give thanks to the men and women who serve in the military to protect our country. Soldiers serve in times of peace and war, and protect the safety and security of citizens of our country, and around the world.
They gave their lives for America
Soldiers and veterans gave their lives and limbs for America. They fought for freedom and the rights we have today. These rights include freedom of association, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.
It reminds us of soldiers’ contributions
We should always respect our soldiers since they serve as a fortress for our nation. They are our first responders to protecting the U.S.A.
Decoration Day dates