Why We Celebrate Memorial Day

For many Americans, Memorial Day means a long weekend, a cookout, and the unofficial start of summer. There might even be a parade or a car show. School is out, or very nearly, so the air of celebration might even be a notch higher! Block parties with carnival-like atmospheres are common over Memorial Day weekend, and quite often this summer kickoff includes travel plans for families looking to get in some vacation time. These are all wonderful pursuits; however, they quite often lose the real meaning of the holiday. While you’ll most certainly find some of these delightful events happening at Senior Lifestyle communities, look a bit closer and you’ll also see the pride shown by residents, team members and families in honoring those who sacrificed so much for us.

Originally named Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a call to remember those servicemen and women who gave their lives in service of the United States of America. The holiday was originally conceived as a solemn day of honor for Civil War dead, proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic General John Logan. The date was chosen specifically because it did not fall on the anniversary of any specific battle. In his proclamation on Decoration Day, Logan stated, “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.”

While there is some confusion as to when and where Memorial Day actually began, New York was the first state to recognize the holiday in 1873, with all northern states following by 1890. Prior to World War I, Decoration Day, or Memorial Day, as it came to be called, was primarily a “northern state” holiday, with southern states honoring their war dead on different days. At the close of World War I, the holiday transformed from a day to honor Civil War dead to a day to honor all Americans who died fighting in any war. The National Holiday Act of 1971 established our current Memorial Day, falling on the last Monday in May. Additionally, in December of 2000 The “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed. This resolution asks that at 3 pm local time all Americans “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend! Catch up with friends, eat a perfectly grilled burger, and make the most of your extra day off, but remember the origin of the holiday. Perhaps take a moment around three in the afternoon to reflect on the sacrifices of many to secure our freedom, as well. Senior Lifestyle and all our communities salute the men and women who gave their all for us, and we wish you a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day.

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