There are a few different accounts of the first Memorial Day. Whenever and wherever the exact date and location was, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day because the graves of the soldiers were decorated with flags and flowers. One of the first Memorial Days was celebrated on May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York to honor Union soldiers killed during the Civil War. Also, in 1866, Decoration Day was celebrated in Georgia to honor the confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War.
In 1868, Major General John A. Logan declared May 30 as a Decoration Day to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers and that a celebration would be held at Arlington National Cemetery. Until after World War I, the Southern States refused to celebrate Decoration Day on the same day as the rest of the country because they did not want to celebrate the lives of the Union soldier and therefore celebrated the Confederate soldiers on a separate day.
To this day, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Georgia observe the National Memorial day and continue to celebrate separate Memorial Days for the Confederate soldier. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday.
Today, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. It is a day to remember all U.S. men and women who lost their lives fighting for our country. People still place flags and flowers at soldiers’ graves. A flag is placed at every grave in Arlington National Cemetery. The President or Vice-President gives a speech in honor of the soldiers and places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solder. Many towns and cities have parades and someone often reads Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”
Red Poppies have been the symbol of Memorial Day since the end of World War I. In 1915, John McCrae wrote the famous poem “In Flanders Field”.Later that year, Moina Michael was very moved by McCrae’s poem and she wrote the following poem in response.