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Stevens Blog

The History of Memorial Day and Present Day Observances

While several stories seem to conflict about the actual origin of Memorial Day, the holiday was officially proclaimed by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868. It was first nationally observed on May 30 of that year when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. However, many cities, towns and women’s groups, especially in the South, lay claim to the origin, as they had set aside days to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.


Stevens Worldwide Van Lines – which provides moving and storage service to thousands of military personnel and their families every year – encourages the celebration of Memorial Day for its true meaning.


First enacted to honor soldiers of the Civil War, after World War I the holiday changed to remember Americans who died fighting any war. The memorial originally was called Decoration Day, and although the name Memorial Day came into some use as early as the 1880s, the name did not officially change to Memorial Day until 1967.


Although many cities and towns will have parades and other celebrations honoring service men and women during this holiday, the majority will not – treating the three-day weekend as little more than the unofficial start of summer.

Two of the largest remaining observances of Memorial Day that involve youth and families occur Saturday and Sunday. Today, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts will place more than 15,300 candles before gravesites in Fredericksburg National Cemeteryin Virginia. Tomorrow, in St. Louis, Mo., Boy Scouts andtheir families will plce nearly 165,000 flags on sites at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery -- one of the National Cemetery Adminstration's oldest internment sites. The scouts started this tradition in 1951.


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