Americans celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday in May so in 2014 it falls on May 26. It's not just about a day off school and the beginning of summer. This holiday goes all the way back to the Civil War and is observed by millions of people - especially America's veterans. Memorial Day is a day to remember all those who died while serving their country.
A Little History
The first Memorial Day was observed on May 30, 1866 in Columbus, Georgia by womens groups who decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers. In 1868, General John Logan (a member of the Senate at the time), officially made Memorial Day a holiday to honor soldiers who had died in the Civil War. After World War I, the holiday didn't just honor those who died fighting in the Civil War but honored all Americans who died fighting in any war. Although the majority of the country celebrates Memorial Day on the last Monday in May, some southern states celebrate it on different days.
How to Celebrate
Since the late '50s, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3rd US Infantry put small American flags on every grave (there's 260,000 of them) at Arlington National Cemetery on the Thursday before Memorial Day. They then patrol the graveyard 24 hours a day during the weekend to make sure that every flag remains standing. On the Saturday before Memorial Day, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each grave (about 15,300 of 'em) at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights. They've been doing this since 1998.
What You Can Do
- Visit a graveyard and put a flag or flowers at a soldier's gravestone.
- Visit a memorial.
- Fly the US flag at half-staff until noon.
- Participate in a National Moment of Remembrance. At 3pm have a moment of silence and think about the true meaning of Memorial Day.
- Don't forget to play Taps, the tune played on a trumpet during Memorial services. When Taps is played with the drumbeat, Muffled Ruffles, it is the highest honor to give those who have died in war.
Have Your Say
How do you celebrate Memorial Day? Let us know in the comments below.