Prayer for Peace Memorial Day is observed annually on the last Monday in May. This year, it takes place on May 29. The day is dedicated to all the men and women in the U.S. military who died fighting for every American’s freedom and the whole nation’s peace, unity, and order. The day originated years after the American Civil War and became an official holiday in 1971. It’s a day for every American to pray for peace, visit cemeteries and memorials, hold family gatherings, or participate in parades to commemorate the American heroes who lost their lives in service.
History of Prayer for Peace Memorial Day
Formerly known as Decoration Day, Prayer for Peace Memorial Day has long existed in the United States. Shortly after the Civil War ended in 1865, Americans would hold spring tributes to fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and reciting a prayer. While the origin of the official Prayer for Peace Memorial Day remains unclear, early records from historians show that one of the first Memorial Day traditions was held in Charleston, South Carolina, in celebration of the surrender of the Confederacy. This was organized by formerly enslaved people who celebrated their freedom and paid respects to the fallen soldiers who fought in the four-year-long war.
The first official National Decoration Day was held in 1868 when U.S. President James Garfield made a speech in Arlington National Cemetery. He explained the essence and importance of this commemoration. It was attended by 5,000 people who decorated 20,000 graves with flowers.
However, the federal government officially declared Waterloo, New York, as Memorial Day’s birthplace in 1966. This was due to the New Yorkers’ annual tradition of organizing a community-wide event where businesses shut down, and people visited soldiers’ graves and decorated them with flags and flowers. In 1971, Congress officially declared Prayer for Peace Memorial Day as a holiday to be observed every last Monday in May.
Prayer for Peace Memorial Day timeline
Residents in Waterloo, New York, organize a community-wide event to honor the fallen soldiers from the war.
U.S. President James Garfield delivers a speech in Arlington National Cemetery attended by 5,000 people.
Congress passes the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, scheduling Memorial Day for every last Monday of May.
Congress declares Prayer for Peace Memorial Day as a federal holiday.
Prayer for Peace Memorial Day FAQs
What is the difference between Prayer for Peace Memorial Day and Veterans Day?
Prayer for Peace Memorial Day honors the memory of those men and women in the U.S. military who lost their lives in service. On the other hand, Veterans Day honors all those who served.
Did Abraham Lincoln start the Prayer for Peace Memorial Day?
No, he did not. Historians noted that this myth came from the fact that Decoration Day started shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, when people swarmed and lay down flowers on his train route from Washington to Illinois.
Why is it formerly called Decoration Day?
The name came from soldiers decorating the graves of fallen military comrades with flowers and flags.
How to Observe Prayer for Peace Memorial Day
Participate in parades
Some of the largest parades for Prayer for Peace Memorial Day occur in Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. Spend the day honoring the fallen soldiers in the U.S. military with a community of military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations.
Visit cemeteries and memorials
Depending on which state you live in, you may visit the nearest cemeteries and memorials in your area. Locals usually organize special commemoration events to bring flowers and flags to honor the fallen military men and women.
Organize home get-togethers
Some people also organize gatherings with friends and family for a quaint get-together. After all, it is a long weekend where you can relax and unwind with your loved ones.
5 Important Facts About Prayer For Peace Memorial Day
The holiday’s founder
In 1868, General John A. Logan issued a decree that May 30 should be observed as Prayer for Peace Memorial Day nationwide.
Women’s groups pioneered the memorial
Even before the war ended, women’s groups in the Southern states gathered informally on various dates to honor the fallen soldiers.
The holiday’s birthplace
Since the birthplace of Decoration Day has always been unclear, at least 20 towns have claimed to be its birthplace, including Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, and Carbondale, Illinois.
The origin of the red poppy
Wearing a red poppy on Prayer for Peace Memorial Day originated in a World War I poem by John McCrae called ‘In Flanders Field,’ where he described the soldiers killed beneath the poppy-covered field.
Traditions have evolved throughout the years
Some of the traditions and rituals of Prayer for Peace Memorial Day since its official declaration in 1971 include hanging the flag at half-mast until noon and pausing at three p.m. local time.
Why Prayer for Peace Memorial Day is Important
It encourages historical preservation
Honoring the men and women who lost their lives in the U.S. military means upholding their contributions to American history. It’s a great reminder to the younger generation of how these fallen soldiers contributed to the country’s freedom.
It provides a chance to honor and mourn the fallen soldiers
Prayer for Peace Memorial Day doesn’t just commemorate the fallen soldiers from the Civil War, but all U.S. military soldiers who died in service. This day gives their families and loved ones a chance to mourn for them and honor their memory.
We get a long weekend with friends and family
Prayer for Peace Memorial Day gives families a chance to catch up on a long weekend. It’s a time for reflection and relaxation before going back to work the next day.
Prayer for Peace Memorial Day dates