Between the backyard BBQs, family get-togethers, and the first dive into the swimming pool, it’s important to remember that Memorial Day is so much more than just a three day weekend and the unofficial start of summer. To help keep things in perspective, here are a few interesting facts about this very special holiday.
- The Civil War is the Reason
Due to the unprecedented carnage that occurred during the Civil War, in which over 620,000 soldiers on both sides lost their lives, communities throughout the country began commemorating soldiers. Waterloo, N.Y. won congressional recognition as the “birthplace of Memorial Day” by holding an annual community service every year since May 5, 1866
- It’s One of Ten Federal Holidays
There are 10 federal holidays created by Congress—including Memorial Day. The first Federal Memorial Day was established in 1888 as a way for Civil War veterans to be honored without being docked a day’s pay. It wasn’t until 1971 that the Monday Holiday Law caused the shift from May 30 to the last Monday of the month.
- Vietnam Vets Go Whole Hog
With over 2,500 bikers rolling into Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day weekend, 1988, the first Rolling Thunder rally began. This demonstration was created to draw attention to Vietnam soldiers missing in action or prisoners of war. There are now over half a million participants – most of them veterans.
- Flags Go Half-Staff
On Memorial Day it is customary for flags to be flown at half-staff until noon, then raised to the top until sunset.
- Each Memorial Day is a Little Different
Although Memorial Day is certainly a solemn event, you shouldn’t feel guilty about doing something fun such as having a backyard barbeque. Everyone celebrates in different ways including businessman Carl Fisher who, on May 30, 1911 decided that the Indianapolis 500 should be instituted over the weekend. In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance, asking Americans to take a moment of silence at 3pm in an act of national unity. The time was chosen specifically because congress felt that at 3pm on Memorial Day is when most Americans are “enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.”
From all of us at The Amish Craftsman, we hope you have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend!