This Is the Real Meaning Behind Memorial Day and Why We Celebrate

·3 min read

Some people see Memorial Day as the unofficial start to the summer. Since it is a federal holiday, many Americans have the day off to celebrate with backyard barbecues, parades, and other festivities. But Memorial Day is about much more than those things. It's a day of remembrance for the brave men and women who served in our armed forces and gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives fighting for our country.

According to the History Channel, Memorial Day was celebrated as early as the 1860s following the Civil War. But it officially became a national holiday in 1971. It always falls on the last Monday of May, so the actual date changes from year to year. And while we may call it a "celebration" as we do for many holidays, it is meant to be a more somber day to honor those who have passed. Read on for the true meaning behind the holiday and how to commemorate it.

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What is the true meaning of Memorial Day?

While Veteran's Day is considered a celebration of all American military veterans, living and dead, Memorial Day is designated to honor those who died in service to our country. "This is the day we pay homage to all those who didn't come home," explains author Tamra Bolton. "It is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom." It is a day to pause and reflect upon the many service members who risked and ultimately lost their lives fighting on behalf of the United States, no matter when, where, or which military conflict was involved.

What is the proper way to celebrate Memorial Day?

There are many ways you can commemorate Memorial Day. Because it is considered a day of national mourning, if you fly an American flag, it should be flow at half-staff until noon and then raised up for the remainder of the day. There is also a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time, where you are asked to pause for one minute of silence to remember our fallen.

Many local and state organizations put on community events like parades that you can attend. You can also visit national memorials or cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of the fallen. Many churches have special services, as do local chapters of the veterans associations.

memorial day flowers in cemetery
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What is an appropriate message for Memorial Day?

You can speak volumes without saying a word by wearing the symbol of remembrance: the red poppy. Both the VFW and The American Legion have run their national poppy programs since the 1920s, and donations to their causes go to help fund veterans affairs all over the country. And it's completely acceptable to go on social media with Memorial Day quotes or patriotic quotes to express your thanks for those who served. Just remember this is a day about respect.

What do you say to a veteran on Memorial Day?

The most appropriate message on Memorial Day is saying "thanks" in any way you can to an armed services veteran. "Thank you for your service" is the most common phrase to use on Memorial Day or frankly at any time during the year. Try to avoid wishing anyone "Happy Memorial Day," though, as it is a somber occasion, not a joyous one.

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