It’s Memorial Day weekend, but it’s much more than the official first weekend of summer. Memorial Day weekend is a day of remembrance and is dedicated to veterans who have fallen while serving for the United States of America.
Some confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day, but the two federal holidays are quite different.
How Did Memorial Day Begin?
Memorial Day, called Decorations Day, is dedicated to the people who have died while serving the United States of America.
The first to recognize Decoration Day as a Holiday in 1873 was New York. In 1890, the rest of the Northern states proclaimed Decorations Day as an official holiday. The south did not acknowledge the holiday and started there own Decorations Day to honor those who had fallen during the Civil war.
Where Did Memorial Day Begin?
Many cities across the United States claim Memorial Day as their own.
The town of Columbus Miss held a ceremony at a local cemetery to honor the Confederate soldiers who died during the battle of Shiloh. However, when they saw the nearby graves of the enemy, the Union, they placed flowers on their graves as well. Consequently, Columbus proclaims the official first Decorations Day as their own.
Columbus and Macon GA along with Richmond VA, Carbondale, Illinois and Boalsburg PA all claim to be the originators of Memorial Day.
The Pomp and Circumstance
On May 30, ceremonies were held with state legislation passing the proclamations to designate Memorial Day as an official holiday in the late 1800s. Veterans walked in parades while town leaders gave speeches.
Even in 1971, the day of remembrance had not been officially named as a federal holiday. Some states still refer to Memorial Day as Decoration Day.
Many southern states have their own holidays to honor the fallen Confederate soldiers. Alabama celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the 4th Monday in April while Mississippi celebrates on the last Monday in April. South and North Carolina observe Confederate Memorial Day on 10 May. Louisiana celebrates on 3 June with Tennessee calling the same date Confederate Decoration Day.
Declaring Decorations Day
Regardless of the exact date or location, Decorations Day began after the Civil War. General John Logan, who was the National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed that, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” The General declared it Decoration Day, as it wasn’t meant to be the anniversary of any battle in particular.
The speech given by General James Garfield was the first Decoration Day at Arlington Cemetery where over 5,000 people celebrated. People decorated graves of the 20,000 Confederate and Union soldiers who were buried there.
When you dig into those barbecued ribs this weekend, take a moment. Be with family and friends, and remember what the holiday is for. Also, remember, had it not been for the veterans you may not be celebrating at all.
Have a Happy Memorial Day from Knoxweb. Stay safe and enjoy, but most importantly remember why you are celebrating.