What is the U.S. holiday “Memorial Day?”

Like many blogs I get traffic from all over the world. Russia, China, India, UK, Australia, Italy, Brazil and everywhere in between. I’ve learned a lot in my travels around WordPress. The diversity of cultures is great and it interests me a great deal. I often wonder about holidays in other countries, what event inspired it etc. Today in the U.S. is Memorial Day and its one of our most revered national holidays.

What is it? :  

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.


To understand Memorial Day today and what Decoration Day in the past was it’s important to illustrate how profoundly the civil war changed American culture. It wasn’t just resolving the issue of slavery, it was in effect how we became one country instead of a group of states acting as one country. The social and economic ramifications of a strong central government are still reverberating today, prior most states enjoyed near complete autonomy from the federal government.

Moreover the death toll from the Civil War was staggering and it impacted nearly every American in some way at the time. It isn’t some event that is held in the abstract, most Americans have someone in their family tree who fought in this conflict. Even new Americans who have recently migrated to the U.S. see the statues in their towns, see the culture references still present today. I was in Alabama 3 years ago on business, one of the people I met with introduced me as “his Yankee friend from New England”.

Like most holidays its meaning and application have changed over time. As an example, this year there will not be many parades due to covid. Most Americans have this day off from work paid. Most of us will have a party or attend one. Many more of us will go to the cemetery and visit the graves of those we lost.

And of course there is the national wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington national cemetery. This is to honor those who fought and died for the U.S. whom we could not identify or who never came home.

Memorial Day in the U.S. is important to us on so many levels. Kids can begin to plan their summer vacations, warm weather begins to take hold across the country, and we get a day to reflect on why we are proud to be American.

I know the later sentiment isn’t a popular one these days. Any hint of nationalism is often met with a skeptical eye. For me, I’m glad I live in the U.S. and I am proud of my heritage and my country, as I am sure you are as proud of yours.

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