10 Fun Facts About Memorial Day

Fun facts about Memorial Day, Unsplash
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Memorial Day usually means a fun, or relaxing long weekend with family and friends. This can also mean the start of summer for some, with pools springing open. But before we get the grills lit and activities prepared, it’s important to understand the holiday a bit more. These fun facts about Memorial Day span from its origin story, the importance of celebrating the holiday, and other interesting facts that many might not be aware of.

10. The Creation

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It’s important to know what the holiday is all about, and this, along with many other fun facts about Memorial Day, highlights these reasons. Besides spending a bit more time outdoors or inside with family, Memorial Day is about honoring those who lost their lives while in service to the United States.

Though it began after the Civil War, this doesn’t mean it’s only for those who served during those years. This is a thanks and appreciation for all those in service either overseas or in training and service in the U.S.

9. Wreath-Laying Ceremony

A tradition that happens every Memorial Day is laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb is in Arlington National Cemetery and is the most iconic memorial.

Since 1921, it has provided a final resting place for one of America’s unidentified World War I service members, and Unknows from later wars were added in 1958 and 1984. The Tomb has also served as a place of mourning and a site for reflection on military service.

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8. The Birthplace Claim

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Some fun facts about Memorial Day revolve around the claim of its birthplace. More than 20 towns claim to be the holiday’s origin, however only one had federal recognition. Boalsburge, Pennsylvania claims an 1864 gathering of women to mourn those recently killed at Gettysburg, while Carbondale, Illinois believed their 1866 parade led by John Logan led the charge of the holiday.

Though it’s believed that the holiday was adapted from southern traditions, the town of Waterloo, New York was declared the “official” birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson. This was done in 1966, about 100 years after the town of Waterloo, New York took to the streets for the first of many continuous community-wide celebrations.

7. The First Memorial Day

The holiday began after the Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865. The war was so brutal that it claimed a devastating 620,000, and therefore established the country’s first national cemeteries.

The tradition of laying flowers on these graves began years later, in spring when the flowers bloomed. The first national observance of Memorial Day occurred on May 30, 1868.

6. Decoration Day

Another one of the many fun facts about Memorial Day is that it wasn’t even called that, to begin with. Although the term Memorial Day was used beginning in the 1880s, the holiday was officially known as Decoration Day for more than a century, when it was changed by federal law.

As time went on, Memorial Day was being said in place of Decoration Day, and in 1968 the government passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which put major holidays on specific Mondays to give federal employees three-day weekends. In 1971, Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day and was moved from the original observation of May 30 to a set day — the last Monday in May.

This caused controversy, however. Veterans believed making it a holiday for a three-day weekend would cause Americans to forget the true meaning of the holiday. Unfortunately, that has been the case for many.

5. John A. Logan, the Founder

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But who declared Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, a holiday? You have John A. Logan to thank for that. He served as an officer with the 1st Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican War but did not see any combat.

Upon his return, he became involved in state politics and was elected to the US House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1858. He defended the Union during the months leading up to the Civil War, and thanks to his oratorical skills, he swayed many of his constituents to change their views and support the Union.

The decorated general declared that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration of the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the Civil War. Many believe that he chose May 30 because it was a rare day that didn’t fall on the anniversary of a Civil War battle, while others believed it was to ensure the flowers were in full bloom.

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4. The Significance of Flowers

Flowers are involved in many fun facts about Memorial Day. For instance, the Friday before Memorial Day is National Poppy Day, which is a symbol that recognizes the sacrifice worn by Americans since World War I to honor those who served and died for our country.

That, along with the previously mentioned name Decoration Day specifically refers to decorating graves, and emphasizes how important flowers are during this time of year and holiday season.

3. The Peak of Hot Dogs

Memorial Day is all about remembrance, but it’s also about celebrating America in general. One of the best ways Americans celebrate their country is by relaxing, drinking, and grilling. One of the most obscure and hilarious fun facts about Memorial Day is that it’s the start of Hot Dog Season.

Memorial Day is one of the biggest grilling days of the year, along with Independence Day and Labor Day. And thanks to it also being the start of the summer, it’s said that Americans will consume a grand total of 2 billion hot dogs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, which is an astounding 818 hot dogs per second.

2. American Flags Should Be Flown at Half-Staff

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Ever wonder why the flag doesn’t always wave at the top? There are specific rules to follow for flag owners, and according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, there is a timeline to follow.

The flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only but then it should be raised to the top of the staff until sunset to honor the nation’s battle heroes on Memorial Day. This custom dates back to at least 1906 when an Army regulations book included instructions for procedure.

Of course, not all flags can be adjusted, so the rule of thumb is that when a flag is mounted either horizontally or vertically, the blue field with stars should be at the upper left, as passersby would view it. Overall, make sure your flag is in pristine condition and isn’t tattered or town, that is red and white bars and the union are bright and vibrant.

1. National Moment of Remembrance

The most important of all fun facts about Memorial Day is the National Moment of Remembrance. This tradition has been overlooked for years, and it’s time to ensure that we celebrate it properly. This annual event asks Americans, wherever they are at 3 p.m. their local time on Memorial Day, to pause for a duration of one minute to remember those who have died in military service to the United States.

This time in particular was chosen in hopes that the majority of Americans are able to participate as they’re enjoying their time off work. This is just one of the many ways that Memorial Day hopes to bring attention to the real reason why the holiday was created.

Nikole Stewart is a writer and editor with three years of experience writing keen articles on topics such as... More about Nikole Stewart