Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial start to summer – the first three-day holiday weekend of the year for many U.S. workers. But Memorial Day is not all sunshine and backyard barbeques.
Here are some little known facts about Memorial Day:
Its original name was Decoration Day
In the 1800s, Soldiers would decorate the graves of their fellow soldiers out of remembrance for their service. Flags, flowers and wreaths would be draped over the graves of dead soldiers. In 1880, people started referring to the day as Memorial Day, but the name wasn’t made official until 1967.
It hasn’t always been celebrated on the last Monday in May
Once the Civil War ended, General John A. Logan called for a holiday honoring fallen soldiers. As commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, he suggested the day of remembrance be held on May 30. However, in 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which ensured most federal holiday always created long weekends. Veteran groups, such as the American Legion, have been working to restore the original date of May 30.
Some states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day
Memorial Day was originally created to honor Union soldiers. It was until after World War I that it was expanded to honor all fallen U.S. soldiers. Several southern states still honor the Confederate dead separately on a day known as Confederate Memorial Day, which is held on different days depending on the state. Alabama (Fourth Monday in April), Georgia (June 3), Mississippi (May 10), North and South Carolina (May 10), Texas (January 19) and Louisiana, Tennessee and Virginia (Last Monday in May) all celebrate the holiday.
Americans, on average, will travel at least 50 miles from home for Memorial Day
According to AAA, more than 36 million Americans will travel a minimum of 50 miles away from home to celebrate the long weekend this year. This is the highest total since the Great Recession of 2008.
It’s legally required to honor fallen soldiers
So this Memorial Day, remember to stop and pay your respects to the hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers who gave their lives fighting for this country. It is the law, after all. That’s right, in December 2000, Congress passed a law requiring Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to remember and honor the fallen.