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4 Facts About Memorial Day & Ways to Observe It

American Flags Feature

Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives throughout the more than 200 years of war history of the nation. Becoming an official federal holiday in 1971, it is always observed on the last Monday in May and, this year, the holiday falls on May 27.

Although many observe Memorial Day with family gatherings, barbecues, and outdoor activities, it is a day that is also honored through ceremonies, parades, and placing flowers and flags on fallen soldiers’ graves.

In preparing for this Day of Remembrance, listed below are four facts to commemorate this Memorial Day.

1. History of Memorial Day

The holiday was originally called “Decoration Day” and was first observed on May 5, 1868, a date chosen because it did not fall on the anniversary of any particular battle, according to History.com. When General John A. Logan, a distinguished military serviceman and political leader, spoke at Arlington National Cemetery, the speech was followed by 5,000 people decorating the graves of the 20,000 soldiers that were buried there.

2. Decorating Graves

Traditions practiced on Memorial Day were born during the Civil War, according to mentalfloss.com. Following the battle of Gettysburg, women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, placed flowers on the graves of the fallen soldiers. A couple of years later, women from Columbus, Mississippi, decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

3. The Fallen

According to PBS Newshour, more than 1.1 million American soldiers have died since the Revolutionary War in 1775. The Civil War alone is accountable for the deaths of 620,000 military personnel.

4. The National Moment of Remembrance Act

This Act, specifically called the “National Moment of Remembrance Act”, was signed on Dec. 20, 2000, by President Bill Clinton, designating 3 p.m. as a moment set aside to “pause and consider the true meaning of this holiday.”

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