The True Meaning of Memorial Day (Historically Speaking)

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Memorial Day? It’s not just a day off of work, a time to find sales or a weekend to gather with family. It’s much more. Let’s delve into the TRUE reason we are celebrating this historical holiday.

Did you know that the original meaning of Memorial Day is Decoration Day? It was named this because of the early traditions of “decorating” the graves with wreaths, flowers and flags. Because of that tidbit of history, Americans now honor our Veterans on Memorial Day by remembering those who have died in service to our country. That is a HUGE deal! Let’s take a look at how Americans pay tribute to these heroes.

Historical Significance of Memorial Day

It all began some years after the Civil War around the late 1860’s when the historical significance of Memorial Day began and was eventually declared a federal holiday. Federal holiday refers to a day when people who work at non-essential government agencies receive pay and a day off to recognize this important day, which traditionally is the last Monday of May. Other places that have decided to close are generally the banks, post offices and schools. Some people view this day with much honor and reverence celebrating the whole day by its historical meaning with family gatherings and attending parades while others see it as just a “paid day off” or “big sale day”,

Birthplace and Tribute to Fallen Heroes

America has seen its wars and conflicts through the ages and has experienced so many losses because of them, however the Civil War claimed more lives than any war or conflict ever. Because of so many lives that were claimed, it was necessary to establish cemeteries to hold our fallen heroes. This is a historical significance of Memorial Day because there were not specific places to bury soldiers prior to the Civil War. Now we see Veteran cemeteries all across our nation that are decorated with flags throughout the grounds to honor the fallen. Some records show the very first memorial gathering could have possibly been in Charleston, South Carolina by a group of enslaved people. Flowers and prayers began the trail of recognition. Nevertheless, the federal government decided on calling Waterloo, New York as the official place of remembering our soldiers’ sacrifice. Why? Because Waterloo joined with other communities in observing May 30th as a day to honor the “war dead” as instructed by General John A. Logan during the Civil War. Waterloo was also the first to hold a formal village wide observance.

Supporting Our Nations Heroes

If you feel like you want to make a difference honoring our military, there are ways that you can contribute.

  • Fundraiser – Host a fundraiser to the community that people will know that all proceeds will go directly to military such as a dance, a walk, bake sale, antique car viewing, community garage sale etc. Check with your local City Hall to see if this is possible.
  • Financial Donation – Military organizations are non-profit so they would welcome any kind of donation. Make a donation page available on your birthday on social media that allows for other friends to contribute or even make a personal donation.
  • Volunteer – Communities always welcome volunteers to help out during events. Give your free time and services to special events such as parades, Community Memorial Day celebrations, or Fourth of July occasions.


I hope you see the historical reason that we celebrate Memorial Day now and will view it differently in the future. It’s more than just BBQ…’s a historical memoriam of the soldiers’ sacrifice who fought for our country so we can have the freedom we have now!

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