National Memorial Day- History and Significance



On the last Monday of May, the United States observes National Memorial Day. For all the dead and wounded warriors of the country, this day commemorates their bravery and dedication. The first time this day was observed was on 30th May 1868 in remembrance of the Civil War soldiers. Since then, it is a federal holiday. New York was the first state to declare it a legal holiday in 1873.

In the year 2020, the concert on memorial day paid tribute to the citizens who fought against the COVID pandemic. Celebrations are done on this day through parades and concerts. The PBS National Memorial day concert was streamed in 2020 to continue the tradition despite the pandemic. Another tradition observed is the decoration of graves of the soldiers. 

“Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay.”

Barack Obama

National Decoration Day

Originally the memorial day was called National Decoration Day. It was after World War II that it was named National Memorial Day. The former name was due to the fact that people decorated graves of soldiers with flowers. People visit cemeteries to mark this day. It is also observed that people wear a red poppy to honor the people who died in the war. In some traditions, National Decoration Day is believed to be the start of summer. To celebrate, people go for picnics and gatherings.

national memorial day event
Memorial Day event
national memorial day concert
National Memorial Day concert

History of National Memorial Day

As mentioned earlier, the first memorial day was observed on 30 May 1868. The inspiration behind this day was the tradition of the Southern states to commemorate their dead people. In 1868, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Since then, the last Monday of May is the memorial day. On the first memorial day, at the Arlington National Cemetry, the former Union General and James Garfield (Ohio Congressman) gave a heartfelt speech. Around 5000 people decorated more than 20,000 graves of soldiers. 

In the cities like Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C, parades are organized with members of veteran organizations and military personnel. The parades are grand and mark as huge celebrations all across the United States.

national memorial day parade in 2017
National Memorial Day parade in 2017

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National Memorial Day Museum

 The William H. Burton House in Waterloo, New York, is also known as the National Memorial Day Museum. The Museum consists of a 2 and a half story. It was originally a Federal-style house. Now, it has been modified into Italianate architecture. The Waterloo Library and Historical Society maintain it currently. It is included in the list of the National Register of Historic Places.

 National Memorial Day museum
Memorial Day Museum

Quick Facts about Memorial Day

  • On every last Monday of May, memorial day is celebrated in the United States
  • The first memorial day was celebrated on the 30th of May, 1868 to remember the soldiers who died in the Civil War
  • National Memorial Day was earlier known as National Decoration Day
  • A concert is organized for the day
  • It was declared a national holiday in 1971
  • Waterloo, New York, is the birthplace of the memorial day

Thank you for reading this article. We hope we were able to tell you new and important facts about the National Decoration Day.

National Memorial Day FAQs

Why is memorial day celebrated in the US?

The day is celebrated to commemorate the soldiers who died for their nation.

Is memorial day a national holiday in the United States?

Yes, memorial day is observed as a federal holiday on the last Monday of May.

What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

While Veterans Day is for those who served the nation, Memorial day is for soldiers who died in the military.

Where is the Memorial Day Museum located?

The museum is located in Waterloo, New York.

When is the Memorial Day in 2022?

Memorial Day will be celebrated on 30 May 2022.