The last Monday in May is Memorial Day. This is a national holiday to remember all U.S. men and women killed at war. Many people visit cemeteries on Memorial Day. They decorate graves with flowers in memory of the dead.
The first Memorial Day was in 1868. It was held after the Civil War. The Civil War was fought from 1861-1865. During this war the northern states fought the southern states. The South wanted slavery, but the North did not believe in owning people. Thousands of soldiers died in this war.
After the war, people wanted to remember the dead. Graves of Civil War soldiers were decorated with flowers. People called this day Decoration Day. It was celebrated on May 30 for many years.
The name was changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday. It was officially set on the last Monday in May. Schools, banks, and post offices are closed on national holidays. Many businesses are closed too.
Memorial Day is a three-day weekend for most Americans. Some people do not think about the dead on Memorial Day. They think about summer vacations. They play baseball with family and friends. They go on picnics and enjoy the warm weather. They fish and have fun at the lakes.
There are many ways to celebrate Memorial Day. Many cities have parades and special memorial services. Some people place flags or flowers on graves. Many U.S. flags are flown at half-staff. A flag is flown at half-staff as a sign of respect or sorrow when someone has died.
In May of 2000, President Bill Clinton declared the “National Moment of Remembrance” to be held on Memorial Day. He said this time was a moment of pause “to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.” This Moment of Remembrance is held every Memorial Day at 3:00 p.m.