You Are At: AllSands Home > History > Events > The meaning of Memorial Day
Memorial Day in the United States began in the late 1800s to honor soldiers killed in the American Civil War. It is celebrated on May 30 each year. This date was made a federal holiday in 1971.

Everywhere around the globe, people have a special day to honor those who gave their lives in battle and their family members. It is the custom to place flowers on graves and fly flags to honor soldiers who have died for their country. In the United States, some southern states have Memorial Day celebrations to honor Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. Mississippi and Alabama celebrate Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday in April. Florida and Georgia, North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee each observe soldiers on additional days, other than May 30. Texas observes Confederate Heroes' Day on January 19, which is Robert E. Lee's birthday.

The location of the first American Memorial Day observance is still in dispute. Some claim the custom of honoring war heros began in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. Others claim the custom came from women who placed flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers after the Civil War. Many feel the first Memorial Day service took place on May 30, 1866, on Belle Isle, a burial ground for Union soldiers in the St. James River, at Richmond, Virginia. A school official and the town mayor organized the program of hymns and speeches. They decorated the burial ground with flowers. In 1966, the U.S. government proclaimed that Waterloo, New York, was the birthplace of Memorial Day. On May 5, 1865, the citizens of Waterloo honored soldiers from the Civil War.

The official U.S. Code for Memorial Day is as follows: The President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each May 30, Memorial Day, by praying, each in accordance with his religious faith, for permanent peace; designating a period during such day in which all the people of the United States may unite in prayer for a permanent peace; calling upon all the people of the United States to unite in prayer at such time; and calling upon the newspapers, radio stations, and all other mediums of information to join in observing such day and period of prayer.

Remembering those who have died for their freedom is a custom that Americans feel is worthy of continuing. Memorial Day is an education for children, allowing them to learn about past world aggressions and the price that people paid for freedom – their lives.