Many people observe Memorial Day by visiting grave sites, cemeteries and memorials and placing flowers, flags and other tributes in honor of deceased loved ones. Other activities centered around the holiday include participating in or watching Memorial Day parades and going to family picnics and other gatherings.
Memorial Day is observed in the United States on the last Monday in May. The purpose is to pay homage to the men and women in the U.S. Military who gave their lives in service of their country. Many people see Memorial Day as the unofficial start to summer.
The holiday originated in the years immediately following the Civil War and was originally called Decoration Day. As early as the 1860s, Americans had begun to pay tribute to fallen soldiers by reciting prayers and decorating the graves of military personnel with flowers and other objects.
Although the U.S. Government declared Waterloo, New York the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, it did not become a federal holiday until 1971. The first ever celebration of Memorial Day was May 5, 1866 when businesses closed down all over Waterloo. Residents brought flags and flowers to the graves of deceased soldiers. As time passed, Memorial Day came to encompass not just those who died in the Civil War, but those who died in other conflicts as well.