There are certain holidays we celebrate as proud Americans that are meaningful for unique reasons. While most people know the significance of big ones like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day may be one of the less understood American holidays. More than an excuse for a three-day weekend spent lounging and grilling on the BBQ, the meaning behind Memorial Day has a lot of significance. Let's take a closer look at the meaning behind Memorial Day!
The basics of the meaning behind Memorial Day is that it's an occasion to remember all the brave men and women who have died for their country as part of the Armed Forces. Many people confuse this day with the meaning behind Veterans Day. Memorial Day is always in memory of fallen soldiers whereas Veterans Day celebrates all living veterans.
The history of Memorial Day dates back to a holiday originally called Decoration Day to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. In American history, the Civil War was the deadliest conflict and claimed the most lives of any war not only of the short history of the country, but even up to modern times. It's estimated the Civil War claimed over 600,000 lives which makes it the deadliest war in the history of the nation. The holiday of Decoration Day started after the Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina when residents took the time to decorate unmarked graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. In the coming decades post-war, there would be various local celebrations for fallen soldiers throughout the country with different traditions in different towns.
In the years following World War II, people became more parotitic of what soldiers had sacrificed and the idea of Decoration Day to honor the fallen gained popularity. In 1967, the holiday gained enough popularity with the American public that it became known as Memorial Day to remember the soldiers lost to all wars and not just the Civil War or World War II. The holiday was solidified the following year when Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act which would make it official that Memorial Day would be the last Monday in May and would be acknowledged as a national holiday.
The fact that the official holiday was now set for the end of May made it the unofficial start to summer which is why it's often associated with BBQing, the pool, or hitting the beach. While it is a nice break from work and school, it's important to remember the real reason this holiday exists is to honor the memories of the brave men and women who died for their country.