People of Miami

Memorial Day aka Decoration Day: Here’s why…

Celebrate Memorial Day and honor the lives and sacrifices made by our fallen soldiers

Every year on the last Monday of May, the entire nation observes what is known as Memorial Day, including in Miami.  It's typically a three-day long weekend featuring barbeques, parades, airshows, and an extra day off.  It's about a lot more.

Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, honors the lives and sacrifices of ​​troops who've lost their lives in American wars.  Here are some reasons why we observe this holiday in their memory:

The origin of Memorial Day

Memorial Day's origins can be traced back to the American Civil War when citizens and family members of late soldiers would place flowers on their graves.  On May 5, 1866, this became a formal occasion and ritual in Waterloo, New York, known as "Decoration Day."

The event was celebrated for decades on May 30 each year till 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.  In 1971 this act declared Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, leading to a three-day weekend for federal employees.

Eventually, the holiday was formalized further after World War-I and declared a nationwide observance.

Common Memorial Day traditions

Over the years, there have been several variations of celebrations and various ways of observing this occasion.  However, a few are particularly special and created especially for Memorial Day.

Memorial Day poppies

Inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, many people wear poppies on Memorial Day.  The poem's image features imagery of red poppies scattered around grave markers, creating a stark, powerful image of loss, blood, and pain.  This is why many people wear poppies to commemorate this dark day.

Half-staff flag displays

All federal flags are lowered to half-mast up till noon, following which they go up to full staff until sundown.  This is done to indicate respect and a sense of mourning in honor of everyone who has lost their life.

Playing Taps

Taps is a bugle song that started in 1862 after a General wrote the song melody for something more melodic.  The song is played specifically on Memorial Day and at military funerals to honor this sacrifice.

Several flags planted on the ground to commemorate Memorial Day.

Visiting veteran cemeteries

Many families of fallen soldiers, officials, and members of the general public visit veteran cemeteries and military graveyards to pay their respects, clean up gravesites, and ensure that there are fresh flowers.  Often speeches, bugle play, and scattering of flowers take during this ritual, with many families holding their own special traditions.

National Moment of Remembrance

There is a nationwide moment of remembrance held every year at 3 pm local time.  It's a minute-long observation of silence where people reflect on the sacrifice of these fallen soldiers and honor their memory.  This came into existence in 2000 after Bill Clinton signed it into law.

As you gear up for a weekend of events, fun, and relaxation, it’s important that we understand the weight and significance of this occasion.  Learn more about holidays and important occasions in the US as we share their history, significance, and other information.  Subscribe to our news publication for coverage related to the latest news, events, and much more from Miami and beyond.  

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