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How To Celebrate Memorial Day

Things to Do, Quotes & Fun Facts.

May 19, 2021

What’s not to love about Memorial Day?  It marks the unofficial start of summer, it’s a three-day weekend, and it’s a great excuse to eat lots of hot dogs. Celebrate this American holiday on May 31st to the fullest by checking out these fun facts, activities and inspiring quotes.

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer.Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer.

What exactly ARE we celebrating on Memorial Day?

  • Memorial Day honors those throughout history who have lost their lives while serving in the United States military.
  • It falls on the last Monday of May every year.

Thank a soldier or veteran on Memorial Day.Thank a soldier or veteran on Memorial Day.
  • Honoring those who’ve died in battle goes back thousands of years to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
  • Memorial Day originated in the years after the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
  • Americans celebrate by visiting cemeteries and memorials, participating in parades, and gathering with family and friends.
  • The term “Memorial Day” was first used in the 1880s, but before that the holiday was called Decoration Day for more than a century. 
  • More than 20 towns claim to be the holiday’s “birthplace”—but the federal government only recognizes one of them.  It’s a tiny town in upstate New York called Waterloo. The town first observed it on May 5, 1866.
  • The idea of wearing a red poppy on Memorial Day began with a World War I poem called “In Flanders Field.”
  • A formal Memorial Day ritual states that the American flag should be hung at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day.
  • The U.S. government created a law in 2000 stating that all Americans are encouraged to pause for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.
  • Amtrak (whose trains blast their whistles), Major League Baseball, and NASCAR observe this moment of remembrance, among many other organizations.
  • The holiday used to be celebrated on May 30th every year.  Some veterans lobby for a return to its original date.
  • Some of the largest Memorial Day parades happen in New York, Chicago and Washington D.C.

Where did wearing a poppy bloom on Memorial Day come from?  A World War I poem.Where did wearing a poppy bloom on Memorial Day come from? A World War I poem.

Quotes Fitting for Memorial Day

“I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom." 

- Bob Dylan

"Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."

- Adlai Stevenson II

"Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering."

- Theodore Roosevelt

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”

- George S. Patton

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

You can visit a cemetery and leave flowers or a flag at a soldier's headstone on Memorial Day.You can visit a cemetery and leave flowers or a flag at a soldier's headstone on Memorial Day.

"Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it."

- Unknown

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them."

- John F. Kennedy

"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself."

- Joseph Campbell

"It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle."

- Norman Schwarzkopf

"Home of the free, because of the brave."

- Unknown

Memorial Day honors American soldiers who sacrificed their lives.Memorial Day honors American soldiers who sacrificed their lives.

Put Your Own Mark on Memorial Day!

Besides eating barbecue and enjoying nice weather, make the day special with some of these activities:

  • Visit a cemetery.  Make a flower bouquet and lay it on the headstone of a fallen soldier.  Or if you’d rather, set a mini flag there.
  • Donate to a veteran’s hospital.  Bring cookies or another gift to a local veteran’s hospital to show the patients how much you care.
  • Wear festive clothing.  Break out your red, white and blue.  Get creative.

Create a Memorial Day piece of art on your sidewalk.Create a Memorial Day piece of art on your sidewalk.
  • Make Memorial Day ice cubes.  Make patriotic drinks by putting blueberries and cut-up strawberries in ice cube trays.  Cover them with water or red or blue juice and freeze the trays overnight.  Throw the ice cubes in your lemonade or seltzer the next day while you’re celebrating.
  • Break out the face paint.  Paint flags or red, white and blue stars on your face.
  • Take a virtual tour of the White House.  Ever wonder what the inside of the White House looks like? Head to Google Arts & Culture for this virtual tour—It’s the next best thing to actually being there.

Learn how to make these patriotic ice cubes on OceanSpray.comLearn how to make these patriotic ice cubes on OceanSpray.com
  • Get patriotic with sidewalk chalk.  Draw a huge flag on your driveway, or even just a thank-you message to our veterans.
  • Watch the Memorial Day concert.  Each year, PBS airs this concert the day before Memorial Day.  Watch this star-studded event at 8pm eastern time.
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