Each year on the final Monday in May, the United States celebrates the federal holiday Memorial Day. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was meant to honor the Union and the Confederate soldiers who died during the American Civil War. By the 1900s, it had become a day to celebrate ALL American soldiers who died while serving in the military. It wasn't until 1967 that it was legally renamed to Memorial Day. It became a federal holiday in 1971.
Other Memorial Day Facts:
• The true origins of who held the first Memorial Day celebration is a debated subject as there were several claims made in different places such as Warrenton (Virginia), Savannah (Georgia) and Gettysburg (Pennsylvania).
• In 1966, President Johnson named Waterloo, New York as the original birthplace of Memorial Day.
• Approximately 620,000 soldiers on both sides died during the Civil War. This was more than both World Wars combined.
• Congress passed a law in 2000 that requires all Americans to stop what they are doing at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to remember and to honor those who have died serving the United States. President Clinton signed this action.
• The flag is supposed to be flown at half-mast until noon, and then raised to full mast until sunset on Memorial Day.
• Memorial Day also marks the beginning of the summer vacation season while Labor Day marks the end.
• Memorial Day is sometimes confused with Veterans Day. However, Veterans Day honors all United States military veterans, while Memorial Day honors the soldiers who died while serving.