We know the general history of Decoration Day, but pin-pointing the first celebration and who it was by will likely remain a contested historical event.
The Origin of Memorial Day
Memorial Day originated as “Decoration Day” after the American Civil War (there is debate over whether it started in the North or South, but today it honors all Americans who served their country). Memorial Day is celebrated by placing flowers on the graves of the fallen to pay respect to the men and women who have died in wars or in the service of their country History of the Holidays: History of Memorial Day | History. Here is one story of the origin of the Civil War by the History Channel. It is generally an accurate account.
TIP: Memorial day was originally called Decoration Day. The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from “Decoration Day” to “Memorial Day,” which was first used in 1882.
TIP: Get some tips for celebrating Memorial day with the family from Military.com.
Who Invented Memorial Day; Did it Start in the North or South?
Claims for where the first memorial day include:
- The Southern states celebrated it first.
- The Northern states celebrated it first.
- African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina.
- In Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, it is claimed that the ladies there decorated soldiers’ graves on July 4, 1864. As a result, Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day. This is one of many stories of the Birth of Decoration Day or Memorial Day.
Depending on who you ask, you could easily walk away with any of the above answers. When Memorial Day became nationally recognized in 1868, some Northerners resisted, saying they shouldn’t follow a Southern idea. Further, some Southerners resisted saying that they didn’t want to follow a Northern idea. Even today some Southern states celebrate their own version of the day (see Confederate Memorial Day).History of Memorial Day – U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
TIP: The practice of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is almost as old as war itself. It is likely that the North, South, and African Americans all celebrated fallen Americans, giving rise to the myths and confusion over who started the practice post-Civil War.
When Was the First Memorial Day?
Although the practice of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient one, the roots of Decoration Day and consequently Memorial Day, begin at or around the end of the American Civil War.
It wasn’t until after World War II that Memorial Day became commonplace; Federal law did not officially name the holiday until 1967.
In 1868, General John A. Logan, who was the commander in chief of the Union Civil War Veterans Fraternity called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), launched the Memorial Day holiday as it is currently observed in the entire United States.
On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to specified Mondays to create convenient three-day weekends. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress’ change of date within a few years.
When is Memorial Day?
Since 1971 Memorial Day is always celebrated on the last Monday of May, so the date changes every year.TRIBUTE TO AMERICAN SOLDIERS – Vintage Memorial / Veteran’s Day Film | Military History Documentary.