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The History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day Ceremony3

file photo by Boyd Loving

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed in the United States on the last Monday of May each year. It is a day dedicated to honoring and remembering the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. The history of Memorial Day dates back to the aftermath of the American Civil War.

Ridgewood Memorial Day Service – May 29, 2023 – 11:00 a.m. – Memorial Park at Van Neste Square – This service is sponsored by American Legion Post 53 – Please come and honor those who have served our country

The Civil War, which took place from 1861 to 1865, resulted in a tremendous loss of life. The war claimed the lives of over 600,000 soldiers from both the Union and Confederate sides. In the years following the war, communities across the country began organizing various ceremonies and events to honor and remember the fallen soldiers.

One of the earliest observances of a day dedicated to fallen soldiers took place in Charleston, South Carolina. In May 1865, a group of former slaves gathered to properly bury Union soldiers who had died in a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp. They cleaned up the burial site, built a fence around it, and held a ceremony to honor the soldiers. This event is considered one of the earliest Memorial Day commemorations.

In 1868, General John A. Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (an organization of Union veterans), declared May 30 as Decoration Day. He chose this date because it did not coincide with any significant battles. The first official observance of Decoration Day took place at Arlington National Cemetery, where participants decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Over time, Decoration Day became more widely recognized and was observed by communities throughout the United States. People would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers, flags, and other remembrances. The day was a time for solemn reflection and remembrance.

After World War I, Decoration Day began to include honoring the fallen soldiers from all American wars, not just the Civil War. The name “Memorial Day” gradually replaced “Decoration Day,” and in 1971, the U.S. Congress officially declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.

Today, Memorial Day is observed with various activities and ceremonies across the United States. These may include parades, patriotic speeches, the placing of flags on graves, and visits to cemeteries and memorials. It is also a time when many people take the opportunity to spend time with their families, enjoy outdoor activities, and kick off the summer season.

While Memorial Day is often associated with the start of summer and outdoor barbecues, it is important to remember and honor the sacrifices made by the men and women who have given their lives in service to their country. It serves as a solemn reminder of the cost of freedom and the courage and dedication of those who defend it.


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