Here is what The
World Book Encyclopedia says about Memorial Day:
Memorial Day, also called
Decoration Day, is a patriotic holiday in the United
It is a day to honor Americans who gave their lives for
their country. Originally, Memorial Day
honored military personnel who died in the Civil War
(1861-1865). The holiday now also
honors those who died in any war while serving the United
Memorial Day is a legal holiday in most states.
Most Northern States and some Southern States
observe Memorial Day the last Monday in May. This date
was made a federal holiday by a law that
became effective in 1971. Most of the Southern States
also have their own days for honoring the
Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates the last Monday
in April as Confederate Memorial Day.
Alabama celebrates on the fourth Monday in April. Georgia
observes this holiday on April 26. North
Carolina and South Carolina celebrate it on May 10.
Virginia observes the holiday on the last Monday
in May. Louisiana observes it on June 3, and Tennessee
has a holiday called Confederate Decoration
Day on that date. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day
on January 19.
Observance. On Memorial Day,
people place flowers and flags on the graves of
Many organizations, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts,
and fraternal groups, march in military parades
and take part in special programs. These programs often
include the reading of Abraham Lincoln's -
"Gettysburg Address". Memorials are often
dedicated on this day. Military exercises and special
programs are held at Gettysburg National Military Park
and at the National Cemetery
In addition, to honor those who died at sea, some United
States ports organize ceremonies in which
miniature ships filled with flowers are set afloat on the
Since the end of World War I, Memorial Day has also been
Poppy Day. Volunteers sell small, red
artificial poppies in order to help disabled veterans. In
recent years, the custom has grown in most
families to decorate the graves of loved ones on Memorial
communities claim to have originated Memorial Day. But in
1966, the U.S.
government proclaimed Waterloo, New York, the birthplace
of the holiday. The people of Waterloo
first observed Memorial Day on May 5, 1866, to honor
soldiers killed in the Civil War.
Businesses were closed, and people decorated soldiers'
graves and flew flags at half-mast.
Major General John
A. Logan in 1868 named May 30 as a
special day for honoring the graves of Union
soldiers. Logan served as commander in chief of the Grand
Army of the Republic, an organization of
Union veterans of the Civil War. They had charge of
Memorial Day celebrations in the Northern
States for many years. The American Legion took over this
duty after World War I.