After the dark, gloomy days of winter and the pollen and smoky haze of spring, there is probably nothing that sounds better than warmer weather, blue skies, and a three-day weekend where we can (safely!) gather with friends and family for a backyard cookout. And, if you’re like me, you’re eagerly anticipating the upcoming Memorial Day long weekend. After all, we typically consider Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer.
And to that end, it’s important to remember that this holiday is about so much more than a cookout or a change in the seasons. First and foremost, it’s observed to remember those who fought for our freedom—the heroes who gave their lives to protect the prosperity of our country. I hope you’ll pause and remember them this year.
What is the history of Memorial Day?
Memorial Day was created to honor the brave people who died while serving in the U.S. military. One of the very first known observances took place way back on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, right after the end of the Civil War, according to the History Channel. A group of freed enslaved men, women, and children had buried the bodies of Union soldiers after Confederate soldiers evacuated Charleston. On May 1, people gathered for a parade in the fallen soldiers’ honor, singing hymns and placing flowers at the fighters’ graves.
A few years later, Union General John A. Logan declared there be a date of remembrance for those who died during the Civil War. He chose May 30, 1868, because it wasn’t already the anniversary of a battle. However, the Southern states opted to create their own day specifically for Confederate soldiers. As a matter of fact, there are nine states that still hold a commemoration for the people who fought for the Confederacy.
Though people certainly continued holding tributes for the fallen, Memorial Day was unofficial for many more years. Decades later, in 1950, the U.S. Congress agreed upon a resolution asking the president to “issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe…Memorial Day, by praying, each in accordance with his religious faith, for permanent peace.” Then, in 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed, which declared that Memorial Day would occur on the final Monday every May. It also required a day off work for federal employees. Finally, in 1971, the anniversary officially became a federal holiday.
From all of us at The Jemez Insurance Agency, we wish you and your family a happy and safe Memorial Day.