History Of Memorial Day
The history of Memorial Day is as rich as it is poignant. Many Americans have come to associate Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer, a holiday where friends get together for backyard barbecues to flip some burgers and knock back a few beers. However, the story and meaning of Memorial Day is much deeper than that and goes back to a time when this nation was stained with the blood of a generation of men who fought for basic equality, dignity and human rights for all Americans.
Memorial Day was initially celebrated as a commemoration of America’s Civil War Veterans. The devastating conflict remains the bloodiest in the nation’s history. Following the aftermath of that national trauma, remembrances at the gravesites of servicemen became widespread. The first known Memorial Day observance occurred at Waterloo, New York and was held in May 1866.
Throughout the nineteenth century, more and more states began to enact laws through their legislatures establishing a May holiday commemorating the memory of those who had perished on the battlefields of the Civil War.
Following the First World War, the observance began to change. The emphasis on remembering the veterans of the Civil War began to diminish as more and more time passed. The conflict entered the annals of history and all American veterans who had been killed or wounded in armed conflict were honored.
The holiday began to become more formalized following the Second World War. However, it was not until 1971 that Memorial Day became the national holiday that we know today. It was in that year that an act of Congress established the holiday in its modern form and set the date as the last Monday in May.