Everyone looks forward to Memorial Day. It is often considered to be the informal beginning of summer. Typically it is celebrated with hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on an outdoor grill. How much do you know about the origin and history of Memorial Day? Take this short quiz and find out.
- Who designated the first Memorial Day? – Although there were local observations before 1868, observance was widened greatly by John A. Logan. He was the leader of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veterans’ organization. In 1868 he designated May 30 as a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.
- What was the initial name of Memorial Day? – Originally the holiday was called Decoration Day since they were decorating graves. After the conclusion of World War II, the name Memorial Day became more commonly used. The official name was changed in 1967.
- In what year did Memorial Day become a federal holiday? – In 1938 it became a federal holiday, although it was still called Decoration Day.
- Why was May 30 chosen for Memorial Day? – While no one is sure, it is believed May 30 was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all across the nation. These were used to decorate the soldiers’ graves.
- What state first recognized Memorial Day as an official holiday? – In 1873 New York made it an official holiday. Many other states soon followed.
- When was Memorial Day changed from May 30 to the last Monday in May? – Beginning in 1971, the date of Memorial Day was changed so that it would always fall on a Monday. Congress changed the date so it would always create a three day weekend.
- Where was the first Memorial Day celebration? – Many towns claim this honor, but in 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They had their first Memorial Day on May 5, 1866. After Logan’s proclamation in 1868, they moved it to May 30. If you go to Waterloo’s website, right under the name of the town, it says “Birthplace of Memorial Day.” They also have a Memorial Day Museum.
- When is the Confederate Memorial Day held? – It depends on the state. In Alabama it is celebrated on the fourth Monday in April. In Mississippi it’s the last Monday in April. Tennessee celebrates it on June 3, which is the birthday of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.
- What major auto race used to be held on Memorial Day? – For many years the Indianapolis 500 was held on Memorial Day or the following Monday if Memorial Day fell on a Sunday. After Memorial Day was changed to the last Monday of May in 1971, it was moved to the previous Saturday for a couple years. After Indiana laws were changed to allow beer sales on Sunday, and the race has been held on the Sunday before Memorial Day ever since.
- Memorial Day originally honored fallen soldiers from the Civil War. When was it changed to celebrate those who died in all wars? – After World War I Memorial Day honored all U.S. soldiers killed in the line of duty.
This Memorial Day, be sure to pay homage to all our soldiers who paid the ultimate price in defense of the United States and liberty. While you are enjoying hot dogs and hamburgers off the backyard grill, also give thanks to the many people who made sure those heroes were not forgotten.