Things you might not know about Memorial Day

Updated May 27, 2024

Memorial Day TLCAs many of you are grilling out, sunning at the pool, or boating on the river this Memorial Day, take some time to remember why we celebrate this federal holiday.

Memorial Day, celebrated the last Monday in May each year, commemorates the soldiers who have died serving and protecting our country. You may know it’s an important day to honor, but you may not know these six facts:

  • The holiday was formerly known as Decoration Day. It originated after the American Civil War to remember the Confederate and Union soldiers who died.
  • The holiday did not become official until 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Even so, it was celebrated by towns and cities across the country for many decades.
  • The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day is that Memorial Day honors soldiers who have fallen, and Veterans Day is for all military veterans.
  • The first Memorial Day speech was given by James A. Garfield, then an Ohio congressman, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in 1868.
  • Congress declared Waterloo, New York, to be the birthplace of the holiday. 
  • It is customary on Memorial Day to fly the flag at half-staff until noon and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset.
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