Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day, has been celebrated all over the United States since the late 1860s. Following the Civil War, many towns and cities held small celebrations for fallen soldiers. Cemeteries would fill with people who were there to decorate a loved one’s grave with flowers or those there to recite prayers.

In 1868, General John A. Logan, a leader for a Northern Civil War veteran organization decided that there should be an official day of remembrance in honor of the fallen soldiers specifically lost during the Civil War. He said, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Although his intentions were for Memorial Day to originally honor those just in the Civil War, a turning point occurred where it would be a day to honor those that were lost in all wars.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared that Waterloo, New York would be the official birthplace of the holiday. Just two years later, in 1986, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed, making the last Monday in May, Memorial Day. Officially becoming a federal holiday in 1971, Memorial Day is now observed by many communities to honor all servicemen and women while they hold parades or visit cemeteries and other monuments. Although it is a holiday for remembrance, it is also an “unofficial start” to the summer season. This means others celebrate by taking weekend trips or gathering the family to throw parties and barbecues.

Memorial Day has a long history of how and when it started as well as the different ways it is celebrated, but one thing that is made clear when this day rolls around; no matter who you are or how you celebrate, Memorial Day is a day to remember how proud we are to be Americans.