Origins of Memorial Day

Memorial Day officially started in 1868 as “Decoration Day”. General John A Logan, the Commander in Chief of The Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,”. This specific date was chosen since it was not an anniversary of any battle.

By 1890 all states had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states did not honor their dead on the same day until after WWI. Eventually Decoration Day was becoming known as Memorial Day. It was first called this in 1882. In 1968, it was officially made the last Monday in May to make a three-day weekend for federal employees. This finally went into full effect in 1971.

Our group The Civilians of Gettysburg, does an 1860’s Decoration Day ceremony in front of the soldier’s monument at the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA. We do poetry readings, talk about the origins of the holiday, and sing a few hymns. Sadly, I did not get any photos of the ceremony since we like to keep modern devices out of the public view for events. But we did get photos afterwards in the cemetery.

Have a fun weekend and remember to honor those who have fought for our freedom.

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