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Memorial Day

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This article is about a holiday in the United States. For other uses, see Memorial Day (disambiguation).

“Decoration Day” redirects here. For other uses, see Decoration Day (disambiguation).

Memorial Day

Graves at Arlington on Memorial Day.JPG

The gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery are decorated by U.S. flags on Memorial Day weekend.

Official name Memorial Day

Observed by United States

Type National

Observances Remembrance of American war dead

Date Last Monday in May

2014 date May 26

2015 date May 25

2016 date May 30

2017 date May 29

Frequency annual

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.[1] The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May,[2] originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.[3] By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.[1] It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountain areas. In cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried, this may take on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles. People gather on the designated day and put flowers on graves and renew contacts with relatives and others. There often is a religious service and a picnic-like “dinner on the ground,” the traditional term for a potluck meal in which people used to spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the “memorial day” idea.[4]
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.[5]

Civil War Veterans in Ortonville, Minnesota, on the Fourth of July, 1880—also called “Decoration Day” prior to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act almost a century later.

History of the holiday
Name and date
Traditional observance
In film, literature, and music
See also
Further reading
External links
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