Memorial Day: Five Facts to Know About the Holiday

by Clayton Edwards

Memorial Day is right around the corner. In about a week people will be gathering all around the country. Some will do so just as an excuse to crack a few cold ones and fire up the grill. Others will come together to remember those brave men and women who gave their lives fighting for the freedom and protection of this great nation.

There are plenty of ways to celebrate Memorial Day. There are concerts, barbecues, and trips to the lake galore. However, let’s take a moment to look a little more closely at this national day of remembrance. Here are five facts about the holiday that you might not know.

Why Is Memorial Day Celebrated In Late May?

Memorial Day is always the last Monday of May. This year, the holiday falls on May 31st. The reason that it falls in late May is a practical one, according to The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That’s when most of the flowers are in bloom. After all, one of the main focuses of the holiday is to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. So, it would make sense to do it when there are plenty of flowers with which to decorate.

National Moment Of Remembrance

Memorial Day is a day for the nation to come together and remember our fallen soldiers. However, did you know that there is a nationally sanctioned Moment of Remembrance? This takes place at 3 pm, local time during the holiday. There are several ways to take part in this moment. The simplest way is to have a moment of silent reflection. You could even say a prayer. Do whatever you feel is the proper way to honor those who gave their all and never came home. You may notice that MLB games come to a halt at this time during Memorial Day play. Also, Amtrak engineers sound their trains’ horns to mark the Moment of Remembrance every year.

The Origins Of Memorial Day

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. It dates back to the years following the Civil War. That war took more American lives than any other conflict. Countless soldiers and civilians fell during the war. So, those who survived wanted a day to mourn the dead, according to History.

The Civil War ended in 1865, by the end of that decade, people were coming together to visit and decorate graves. Many reports say that the first observation of something like Memorial Day took place in Charleston, South Carolina. This was organized by freed slaves and took place just after the Confederacy surrendered. In 1966, the federal government declared Waterloo, New York the birthplace of Memorial Day. It became a federal holiday in 1971.

The Origins Of “Taps”

“Taps” is the mournful bugle tune played at military funerals. It is also a regular part of the Memorial Day Wreath Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The song originated during the Civil War. It was first played at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia in July of 1862. By the end of the year, both Union and Confederate forces adopted the song. “Taps,” became a standard part of United States military funerals in 1891.

“Taps” was first used at a Union Army funeral. Captain John Tidball ordered his men to quietly play the tune as they laid a fellow soldier to rest. They did this because the Captain worried that the normal 21 gun salute would alert the enemy to their position.  

Memorial Day Parades

Parades are a big part of any Memorial Day celebration. Cities across the country hold parades to honor their fallen. However, the one in Ironton, Ohio is widely believed to be the oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade in the United States.