The History of Memorial Day: 7 Patriotic Facts Every American Should Know
It’s easy to associate Memorial Day weekend with weekend barbecues and lake trips, but the holiday is about far more. Memorial Day, which has been a national holiday since 1868, is dedicated to the men and women who have died while serving in a branch of the United States military.
And since social distancing measures may prohibit your traditional Memorial Day activities like remembrance parades or placing flags at gravesites, this year is the perfect time to learn about the origins of the holiday from home. Take some time to learn about the history of Memorial Day and reflect on the sacrifices made by military members.
When Is Memorial Day?
Memorial Day 2021 is Monday, May 31. From 1868 to 1970, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 (regardless of what day of the week it fell on), but since 1971, the holiday has been celebrated on the last Monday of May.
Memorial Day vs. Veteran’s Day
Memorial Day is commonly mixed up with other military holidays observed in the United States. So, what’s the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day? Memorial Day observes those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, while Veterans Day, celebrated annually on November 11, honors those who have served or are serving. Armed Forces Day (celebrated on the third Saturday in May) celebrates those who are currently serving in a branch of the military.
How to Celebrate Memorial Day
While Memorial Day barbecues, lake days, and camping trips are common activities for the three-day weekend, make sure you're celebrating the holiday respectfully. Before you fire up the grill, volunteer to place miniature American flags ($8 for 25 flags, Amazon) at military gravesites or in local parks. If you have a flag pole, be sure to fly your flag at half-mast on the holiday as well.
Here are seven more facts you may not know about the history of Memorial Day.