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American Band

This 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.

In 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.

See also:
About the USA > U.S. History > Slavery, Civil War and Westward Expansion

Feature Article
Cemetery with flags
Cemetery decorated with U.S. flags
for Memorial Day
Memorial Day Holiday Honors American War Dead
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. (, May 26, 2010.)
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Updated: September 2010