When Was the First Memorial Day?

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While many of us now consider Memorial Day the unofficial start of the summer season, the original intent behind the occasion has a much more somber and honor-focused meaning. This federal holiday was formalized as a way of remembering and mourning members of the U.S. military who died in service, and people often mark the occasion by visiting cemeteries and decorating headstones of fallen soldiers with flags and wreaths.

In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized Waterloo, New York, as having celebrated the first Memorial Day 100 years earlier. However, multiple towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, and the holiday’s long evolution makes it unclear where exactly it began. On top of that, there are many persistent myths about how Memorial Day started. Learn more about these and how they relate to the holiday’s origins.