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Memorial Day is a holiday occurring on the last Monday of May that honors the women and men who have died serving in the U.S. military. Originally called Decoration Day in the years following the American Civil War, Memorial Day was officially recognized as a federal holiday in 1971. Americans commemorate today by attending memorials and cemeteries, holding parades and hosting family barbecues.
Memorial Day Facts:
- Memorial Day unofficially marks the beginning of summer
- A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time each Memorial Day
- In 1966, the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day
- A longstanding tradition, the Indianapolis 500 race has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911
- Memorial Day honors men and women who died while serving in the military; Veteran’s Day commemorates all U.S. military veterans
- The American flag is flown at half-mast until noon, then full mast until sunset on Memorial Day
- The Memorial Day Red Poppy tradition originates from John McCrae’s 1915 poem In Flanders Fields
- Some people still practice the tradition of eating a picnic in a cemetery to celebrate this holiday
- Approximately 32 million people travel by car during Memorial Day weekend
- More Americans lost their lives during the Civil War than the two World Wars combined
- Some states like Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi still celebrate Confederate Memorial day; celebration dates range from late January to early June
- The number of people present at the first Memorial Day ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery were roughly equal to those who attend today, approximately 5,000 people