What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day in the United States is a public holiday celebrated on the last Monday in May. On this day, we honor the men and women who died while serving in the military. Memorial Day also marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Here are six fun facts about Memorial Day for you.

Six fun facts for children about Memorial Day, also known as Decoration Day, a day we honor the men and women who served in the military and died. #kellysclassroomonline

1. Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day in many parts of the United States until its name was officially changed in 1967. It was called Decoration Day because families would place flowers and flags on the graves of loved ones who served in the military and died.

A soldier's grave decorated with and American flag and red-white-and-blue flowers for Memorial Day.

2. Memorial Day is one of three days to honor the men and women in the military:
  • Memorial Day: We honor those who have served and died.
  • Veterans Day: We honor those who have served are still living.
  • Armed Forces Day: We honor those who are currently serving.

Hundreds of American flags on display for Memorial Day.

3. No one knows exactly when people started decorating gravesites.  Decorating soldiers' graves is a tradition that goes back to ancient times.

The Vietnam Wall in Washington DC is decorated with red poppies.

4. During and the Civil War and for a short time afterward, the North and the South had their own Memorial Day commemorations for a while.  The first Confederate Memorial Day was held in 1874 to help preserve Confederate culture.  Many Southerners at the time believed that Northerners appropriated their holiday.  Today, however, Memorial Day commemorates all American soldiers... regardless of where they lived.

Flowers laying on a soldier's grave.

5.  Although Memorial Day is not a religious holiday, there are many religious traditions people often follow.  People often go to church/synagogue/temple/mosque, engage in prayer, sing hymns, and remember those who have sacrificed themselves for our country.

American flags and gravestones at Arlington Cemetery.

6. Poppies were adopted as the symbol of Memorial Day in 1920. The inspiration for this came from the poem In Flanders Field by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae.

Red poppies in a field.

Did you enjoy learning about Memorial Day? If so, check out these blog posts about other significant aspects of American history:

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