May 24, 2013
What do Macon and Columbus, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Carbondale, Illinois have in common? They, along with approximately 25 other places, claim to be the origin of Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day.
In May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day. It would be difficult to prove, without a doubt, the origins of the holiday. For more information on national holidays, read Patriotic Holidays of the United States by Helene Henderson. We do know organized women’s groups decorated graves of fallen confederate soldiers before the end of the Civil War. Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Major General John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30, and flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It was seen as a time of reconciliation.
New York was the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873, with the rest of the Northern states adopting the holiday by 1890. The Southern states continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I, when the meaning of the day changed to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971, designating Memorial Day as the last Monday in May. Several Southern states continue to have a separate day honoring the Confederate war dead. Check out Memorial Day by Trudi Strain Trueit.
Memorial Day has gradually evolved into a national day of remembrance, honoring all dead and not just those who have fallen while serving their country. Read more in Memorial Day by Mir Tamim Ansary. Sadly, it has also become less meaningful to many people as it is seen as just another fun-filled three day weekend.
Platte City Branch