What is the History of Memorial Day?

We’ve been told enough recently the distinction between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the former representing our war dead and the latter all veterans who have served. But where did this celebration come from and how did it mature through the years to what it is today? It was originally called Decoration Day, referring to the practice of decorating Civil War soldiers’ tombs with bouquets of lilacs and other fresh flowers. And then in 1866, it had its first village-wide observance in Waterloo, N.Y. led by Gen. John Murray and Henry Wells, using flags at half-staff, evergreens and black fabric to signify mourning. But it was on May 26, 1966, that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation honoring Waterloo as the Birthplace of Memorial Day. Many Southern states still pay homage to the Civil War and the Confederate dead on their own specified days. And then following World War One, the day was expanded to honor those killed in all wars, not just the Civil War. Remember, the National Moment of Remembrance is 3 PM local time wherever you are.

Thanks to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

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