For many Americans, Memorial Day evokes the smell of burgers on the grill and the image of summertime. But Memorial Day—which occurs on the last Monday in May in remembrance of those who died while serving in the armed forces—is a holiday steeped in somber American history. Originating after the American Civil War as "Decoration Day," when the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers were decorated with flowers in both the North and South, by the 20th century Memorial Day had been unified to honor all Americans who died while serving in the military.
Why Memorial Day is Important
A. Memorial Day Is the Ideal Time to Reflect
While the outdoor grilling, parades, and beautiful summer weather are some of our favorite perks of Memorial Day, the last Monday in May is the best time of year to quietly reflect on the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They make us feel inspired and challenged to be better than we are today—and that’s a wonderful feeling!
B. Memorial Day Kicks Off the Summer Season
We know, we know—summer officially begins on June 21. But in the minds of all Americans, summer actually begins on Memorial Day. That means it’s totally okay to dust off the grill, fill up the pool, and change into our bathing suits.
C. Memorial Day Gives Us an Excuse to Spend Time with Family
Since Memorial Day is a federal holiday with a built-in three-day weekend, we have an extra day to catch up on quality time with family members. For those of us with relatives who died while serving in the military, Memorial Day is an extra special time for remembering and honoring those loved ones.
How to Observe Memorial Day
1. Decorate the Grave of a Fallen Soldier
In between the outdoor activities and food, don’t forget to acknowledge the real meaning of Memorial Day—honoring those who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces. Lay flowers on the grave of a family member or friend who died while serving. If you don’t personally know any fallen soldiers, visit a local cemetery anyway. After all, you may not be here if it weren’t for their sacrifice.
2. Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, pause for one minute at 3:00 PM local time to quietly reflect on those who died while serving in the military. By doing so, you’ll be joining millions of Americans in national unity to honor Memorial Day for what it truly is—a day for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
3. Fly an American Flag at Half Staff Until Noon
If you have an American flag at home, be sure to fly it at half staff until noon, then raise it to full mast for the rest of the day. The practice of lowering and then raising the flag has been observed for over 100 years to symbolize America’s persistence in the face of loss.