On the last Monday in the month of May, America stops and remembers those who died while in the U.S. military. While it has been a federal holiday only since 1971, the day has been observed since the end of the Civil War. At that time, the day was known as Decoration Day.
Waterloo, New York, observed the fallen soldiers of the Civil War on May 5th, 1866. All businesses closed and the residents there decorated the graves of those who had fallen. Despite at least 25 other communities having declared that the holiday originated in their cities, one hundred years later, in 1966, the federal government declared Waterloo as the official birthplace of Memorial Day.
By the end of the 19th century, many state legislatures had passed declarations designating the day to remember the fallen of the Civil War. But, by the end of World War I, the day was expanded to memorialize the fallen in all American wars.
Each Memorial Day, millions give a moment of silence in memory of those who have fallen at 3 pm local time. Across the nation the graves of the fallen are decorated, and volunteers place flowers and clean up the national cemeteries of the nation.
The red poppy has become a symbol of the day and a single poppy is generally worn on the clothing in remembrance. This tradition came into being following WWI after it was noticed that poppy fields sprang up on the battlefields after the ground there was disturbed during conflict.
Additionally, Memorial Day has come to unofficially designate the first day of the summer season and is known for its gathering of friends and family and the first road trips of the year.
Please observe this Memorial Day safely and remember our fallen.