The holiday has got one more popular name – Decoration Day. This is because of the custom of decorating soldiers’ graves. Even before the American Civil War women used to decorate these places with flowers. The manner was spreading around the country gradually: it started in Virginia, the next year Georgia followed, then Pennsylvania and other states followed this idea. This ritual started to spread and now many volunteers place American flags on soldiers’ graves.
Memorial Day was at first a spontaneous way of honoring men and women who lost their lives during the Civil War. In 1868 general John A. Logan issued General Orders no. 11 that was calling for annual and nationwide “Decoration Day”. Eventually, the holiday was extended from Civil War victims to all of those who served the U.S. military service and became known as Memorial Day, although the official name was declared by federal law in 1967. It is one of four holidays that had their date changed to a specified Monday by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, so instead of May 30 it is now observed on the last Monday of May.
Although there are no official ceremonies established for Memorial Day, some customs have become representative for the holiday. For example, Americans fly the flag at half staff until noon, and until sunset raise it to the top. Moreover, many cities organize parades each Memorial Day, and some people wear red poppies as a symbol of tribute to veterans. Unofficially, the holiday is also known as the beginning of summer.
Did you know?
In 1988, on the weekend of Memorial Day, in Washington, D.C. 2500 motorcyclists started a new tradition – a rally called “Rolling Thunder” aiming at commemorating missing or imprisoned Vietnam soldiers. By year 2005 the number of motorcyclists increased to, possibly, half million. The final ride, because of the expense of the ride, was held in 2019.