holiday, on the last Monday of every May, is a day on which Americans
honor the dead. Originally a day on which flags and flowers were placed
on graves of soldiers who died in the American Civil War, it has become
a day on which the dead of all wars and all other dead are remembered
the same way.
1971, along with other holidays, President Richard Nixon declared Memorial
Day a federal holiday on the last Monday in May. Cities all around the
United States hold their own ceremonies on the last Monday in May to
pay respect to the men and women who have died in wars or in the service
of their country. In many communities, special ceremonies are held in
cemeteries or at monuments for the war dead by veterans of military
services. Some hold parades and others hold memorial services or special
programs in churches, schools or other public meeting places. Memorial
Day is not limited to honor only those Americans from the armed forces.
It is also a day for personal remembrance. Families and individuals
honor the memories of their loved ones who have died. Church services,
visits to the cemetery, flowers on graves or even silent tribute mark
the day with dignity and solemnity. On Memorial Day, the President or
Vice President of the United States gives a speech and lays a wreath
on the tombs. Members of the armed forces shoot a rifle salute in the
air. Veterans and families come to lay their own wreaths and say prayers.
It is a day of reflection. However, to many Americans the day also signals
the beginning of summer with a three-day weekend to spend at the beach,
in the mountains or at home relaxing.
About the USA > U.S.
History > Slavery, Civil War and Westward Expansion
Day Holiday Honors American War Dead
decorated with U.S. flags
for Memorial Day
The Memorial Day holiday celebrated by Americans on the last Monday of
each May represents for many the unofficial beginning of summer. An estimated
37.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the long holiday
weekend, as they seek out friends and family, beaches and amusement parks,
while others relax and enjoy the warm weather. But most will pause at
some point to recall the holiday's true purpose: honoring those who died
defending their nation.
Memorial Day entertainments range from large sporting events to quintessentially
small-town celebrations. The Indianapolis ("Indy") 500 motor
race, by some measures the world's largest single-day sporting event,
attracts an estimated global audience of more than 320 million. (America.gov,
May 26, 2010.)