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Do you know your Memorial Day history?

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It is Memorial Day Eve.  Sgt. York, a great movie about a World War I hero is playing on the TV.  During a commercial break, my grandson asks me what Memorial Day is and why we celebrate the day. This inspired me to do a little research concerning the history of Memorial Day, and how Americans came to celebrate it. I found out some interesting information that I shared with my grandson and I thought my reader’s would also be interested in reading the reasons why Memorial Day is observed.

Sgt. York (1941)

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was a day declared three years after the Civil War to honor the deceased soldier’s graves with flowers. “Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.”

“Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged:

“We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

According to an article in, the crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave — a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.

Memorial Day was officially declared a Federal Holiday in 1967. On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. 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.

 Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials.

Each year on Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.  Please take the time to remember a soldier.

Here are a few other places to read about Memorial Day happenings:

Memorial Day on Main Street

War Produces Heros

 Memorial Day 2012

 A Memorial Day Tribute to My Grandfather-

Works Cited

Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade . (2012, 5 27). Retrieved from Explore Chicago The City of Chicago’s Official Tourism Site:

Hawks, H. (1941). Sgt. York. Retrieved 5 27, 2012, from

Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920 (from Duke University). (2012, May 27). Retrieved from American Memory:

Memorial Day. (2012, 5 27). Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Memorial Day in New York. (2012, 5 27). Retrieved from About. Com New York City Travel:

Military Advantage. (2012, 5 27). The History of Memorial Day. Retrieved from

National Memorial Day Parade. (2012, 5 27). Retrieved from


Copyright © Jamie Nowinski and Grandmother Wisdom/ Grandmother Musings 2012-2013.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamie Nowinski – Grandmother Wisdom/Grandmother Musings with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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