Memorial Day, 2016.
Memorial Day, May 27th, 2016.
Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the la Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries of memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.
It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo-which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866-was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
Memorial Day traditions
Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.
It is customary to mark the day by visiting graveyard and war monuments. One of the biggest Memorial Day traditions is for the President or Vice President to give a speech and lay a wreath on soldiers’ graves in the largest national cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia. Most towns have local Memorial Day celebrations. Here are some ways you can honor the men and women who serve our country:
- Put flags of flowers on the graves of men and women who served in wars.
- Fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon.
- Visit monuments dedicated to soldiers, sailors and marines.
- Participate in National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.
- March in a parade.
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