If you’re in the US, you might currently be enjoying a three-day weekend thanks to Memorial Day happens at the end of May every year. But the day is more than that and the start of summer and in this post, we will talk about its true meaning of Memorial Day, what the red poppy has to do with it and what it’s official birthplace is.
What is Memorial Day
Observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States to remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in the U.S. Military. People visit memorials and cemeteries to honor by placing an American flag on graves of those who died.
Memorial Day came into being as a response to the loss suffered by American soldiers during the Civil War which ended in 1865. Soon after that Americans from various states started holding tributes to the fallen by decorating their graves with flowers and flags and prayed for their restful souls. That’s why the day was also called Decoration Day until 1967.
Soon after the Civil War, the US found itself conflicting with others during World War I, then World War II and all other wars that successes them. Memorial Days, since then, evolved as a way to commemorate American soldiers who died in all wars including the ones in Vietnam, Korea, and Afghanistan.
When is Memorial Day 2020
As is the tradition, Memorial Day will be held on the last Monday of May and this year, it’s on Monday, May 25th.
Across the US, thousands of parades are held across several cities and towns, featuring marching bands and service members from different classes like those on Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and Veteran. On Memorial Day every year, people stop what they’re doing and pay their respect to the fallen by pausing for a minute at 3:00 pm as an act of national unity.
Why does a poppy symbolize Memorial Day
In 1915, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote a war poem that started with the line “In Flanders fields, the poppies blow” referring to the fields of poppies that grew over soldiers’ graves in Flanders. The red poppies were the first plants to appear in the war-torn battlefields of Europe and only grew when ground in which the seeds sat were disturbed from time to time.
Inspired by the poem, a YMCA worker in 1918 pinned a silk poppy on her coat and distributed more to others. In 1920, the National American Legion announced that poppy will be their official symbol of remembrance.
Official Birthplace of Memorial Day
There’s no confirmed information that dates to the first Memorial Day. However, in 1966, the then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, signed a presidential proclamation, declaring Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. The action was taken after the 89th Congress had officially recognized that Memorial Day had begun one hundred years ago in Waterloo.
Waterloo celebrated its first Memorial Day on May 5, 1866. It was chosen as the birthplace because back then, the place hosted a community-wide event annually during when businesses were closed and people decorated the graves of fallen soldiers from both sides with flags and flowers.