Memorial Day weekend – it’s a time for pool parties, cookouts, big sales, and the unofficial start of summer. For most of us, the last Monday in May is a working holiday and a school holiday, making it a great time for family get-togethers and to tackle that big outdoor living project.
But amidst all the good fun and good food, it’s worthwhile to remember what Memorial Day is all about.
What Is Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is a US holiday observed on the last Monday in May, so the exact date changes from year to year. Lawmakers made it a federal holiday in 1971. The day is set aside to remember the men and women who died while serving in the US Armed Forces.
Those of us who are a little bit older may remember grandparents referring to it as Decoration Day. Shortly after the Civil War, families used the day to go out and decorate the graves of those who had died. The tradition of visiting cemeteries and laying flowers on graves to honor our fallen continues to this day.
While Decoration Day originally honored only those who died in the Civil War, Memorial Day honors any American military personnel who died in wartime, including World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Memorial Day Traditions
Traditions related to the meaning of the holiday include:
- Decorating graves
- Wearing red poppies
- Parades (virtual in 2021)
- A national moment of silence at 3 pm local time
And of course, family traditions related to the holiday weekend can include family reunions (especially for family who have been vaccinated for COVID-19), pool parties, cookouts with recipes we only make once or twice a year, running in a race to benefit Gold Star families, and more.
However you spend this holiday, we wish you peace and good health.