United States federal holidays and is celebrated the last Monday in May each year. It will be celebrated on May 31, 2010.
Memorial Day is a day set aside to commemorate and honor U.S. men and women who have died in military service. It was originally called Decoration Day because it is a day to decorate and care for the graves of fallen soldiers. Memorial Day was first enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War and was expanded after World War I.
The Origin of Memorial Day
When the Civil War ended, many towns and communities set aside a day of their choosing to mark the end of the war and to remember those who had died. Thus many towns and cities claim to have been the first to enact Memorial Day.
According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first Memorial Day was observed by formerly enslaved black people at the Washington Race Course in Charleston, South Carolina. The race course had been used as a temporary confederate prison camp in 1865 as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who died there. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, formerly enslaved people exhumed the bodies from the mass grave and reinterred them properly with individual graves. They built a fence around the graveyard with an entry arch and declared it a Union graveyard. The work was completed in only ten days. On May 1, 1865, the Charleston newspaper reported that a crowd of up to ten thousand, mainly black residents, including 2800 children, processed to the location for a celebration which included, sermons, singing and a picnic on the grounds, therefore creating the first Decoration Day. (Wikipedia)
Despite the various claims, in May,1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day Officially Proclaimed a Holiday
On May 5, 1868, Memorial Day (Decoration Day) was officially proclaimed a holiday by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and the first official observance of Memorial Day was held on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. By 1890, Memorial Day was recognized by all of the Northern states. The south refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).
The holiday was called Decoration Day until 1882, when people began to call it Memorial Day. The new name became increasingly more common after World War II but was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, the United States Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved three holidays from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from it's traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May.
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