Memorial Day ~ A Brief History

“Decoration Day” or Memorial Day as it is now called was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the of the Republic Army. It was originally commemorated as a day of remembrance for those who died in service to our country.

The first official observance took place on May 30 of 1868 with the placement of flowers on both Union and Confederate graves at Arlington National Cemetery. New York had the distinction of being the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873. All of the northern states observed the holiday by the end of 1890. The southern states, however, honored their fallen Confederate soldiers on different days until the end of World War I when all Americans who gave their lives in any war were honored; not just those who perished in the Civil War.

Memorial Day is currently celebrated throughout the land with Congress officially proclaiming a national holiday with passage of the “National Holiday Act” in 1971.

Although it was a solemn day of remembrance and sorrow for our fallen dead for several decades following the original proclamation in 1868, Memorial Day has evolved into a day of relaxation, barbecues, and family gatherings. It was acknowledged by many citizens, to their dismay, that most of us had forgotten the true meaning and intent of the occasion.

To that end, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed in 2000 requesting that all Americans “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to the traditional military piece “Taps” commonly played at soldiers’ funerals. This moment is commonly observed at 3pm local time.

This resolution was passed in order to help us recall the spirit and original intent of the holiday: to honor our fallen and never forget the ultimate sacrifice of those who gave their all to keep us free.