As we enjoy this Memorial Day Weekend with family and friends, let us not forget why Americans have a day off to relax and enjoy. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was established to celebrate the lives of more than 620,000 soldiers who died during the Civil War (April 12, 1861 to  May 13, 1865).


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

Declaring a holiday

Although the South was well known for “decorating” the graves of their soldiers during the Civil War, it was the North that eventually declared a specific day for this celebration. General John A. Logan, a member of the Army of the Republic of Union Veterans, is noted for declaring the holiday.


Honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country – Arlington Cemetery

The first official Decoration Day

In 1868, on the first “official” Decoration Day at Arlington National Cemetery, thousands of people “decorated” the graves of the soldiers. Some historians believe that May 30th was the chosen day to honor our fallen because it was one of the few days that was not a painful anniversary of a battle during the Civil War. However, others think the day was picked because flowers were in bloom and readily available for Americans to place on the graves. No matter the original reason, May 30th — regardless of which day of the week it fell on — became the official day to decorate the graves and honor our soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.


A new name — Memorial Day

This referent tradition grew and continued throughout America until after World War I. Citizens then began to call Decoration Day by a new name — Memorial Day — with the intent to include and honor all men and women who died while in U. S. military service.  However, the name was not officially changed by federal law to Memorial Day until 1967 — nearly 100 years after the first celebration.


Memorial Day moves on the calendar

A year later, on June 28, 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed by Congress. This bill moved four holidays (Washington’s Birthday – February 22, Memorial Day – May 30, Columbus Day – October 12, and Veterans Day – November 11) from their specific calendar dates to the closest Monday, which would then give Americans a three-day weekend.  Thus, Memorial Day was no longer on May 30th; instead, it falls on the last Monday in May (regardless of the date.) The change did not become Federal law until 1971.


A busy holiday weekend — but a time to remember

Many people believe that changing the day in order to make it more convenient for Americans has taken the reference and the meaning away from the day. So I ask you . . . how do you celebrate Memorial Day? Is there a friend/neighbor/loved one in your life who you have lost? During your busy holiday weekend, do you take the time to stop and remember these brave soldiers who chose to serve our country — many of whom lost their lives while protecting us?  Please remember to thank those people serving in our military and also appreciate those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

We are the HOME of the FREE because of the BRAVE.


“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”  — James A. Garfield (May 30, 1868, Arlington National Cemetery)

God Bless America – Let us never forget!




Photos courtesy of Tesa Jones.


Tesa Jones is a graduate of Elon College, now Elon University, a mother of two, a grandmother of five, and she currently resides in Mooresville with her husband. She is a published author, an avid blogger, and a passionate photographer. Learn more about Tesa Jones at and contact her via:



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