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Lesson Transcript

Top 10 US Holidays—Memorial Day
Memorial Day is about remembering troops who have died while serving in the military for the United States. It falls in May on the final Monday of the month.
There have been indications of remembrance ceremonies since at least the nineteenth century, although there are many stories of how the holiday started. Over twenty different cities lay claim to starting the holiday, although in 1966 Waterloo, New York was officially recognized as the city to start Memorial Day.
The history of Memorial Day can actually be traced to Decoration Day, which was declared in 1865 by several freed slaves. That holiday began by honoring Union soldiers who had been killed in the Civil War.
New York was the first state that recognized Memorial Day as an official holiday in 1873, although General John Logan made the very first declaration of the holiday on May 30, 1968 at Arlington National Cemetery. On that day, the aim of the holiday was to honor members of the military who were killed during the Civil War. Of course, this did create objections from those in the South, who honored their dead on a different day until the end of World War I, which was when this day of remembrance became about honoring military members who were killed in all wars rather than just the Civil War.
Today celebrations for Memorial Day are marked with shopping and traditional ceremonies at cemeteries where soldiers who were killed in combat are buried. Most Americans relax and enjoy a day off while celebrating with friends and family at outdoor barbecues. The Indianapolis 500, a race held in Indiana, has been held the day before Memorial Day since 1911.