This is Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day (a day to decorate the graves); it is dedicated to the remembrance of those who have died in service to their country. It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and first observed on May 30, 1868. It was first recognized as a holiday in New York State in 1873. By 1890 it was being recognized by all of the northern states. Southern states refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting any war).
This 4th Monday in May is not the traditional day of observance; it was changed by Congress in 1971 with the National Holiday Act of 1971. This was to ensure a three-day weekend for Federal holidays.
Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
Increasingly many more think it is to honor those who have served and are serving today. There is a special day for honoring our Veterans (who are serving or have served), it is Veterans Day which is observed in November. It is now common to interchange and combine the meaning of these days.
The meaning of this Remembrance Day is falling away more and more each year. The media neglects its meaning and calls it the “Unofficial Start of Summer”. Commercially, it has become another excuse for a big sales event. It is not just the domestic car makers that promote the “Big Memorial Day Sales Event” but also the imports have gotten into the act. Maybe they think that, just because they have manufacturing facilities here, they are American and therefore justified.
It is time that we return to the ideals which started the observance in the first place, to honor those who have died in service to their country during the time of war.