Before the 1971 Congressional mandate, Memorial Day was considered Decoration Day. Years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, Union Veterans established Decoration Day to decorate the graves of those whose lives were lost. Over the years, the meaning transitioned from only honoring Civil War soldiers to all different wars and conflicts. Memorial Day has evolved over the years with traditions and commemorations. Every year, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.
The red poppy is recognized as a symbol of sacrifice many Americans and those overseas wore to honor World War I soldiers. The poppy flower flourished in Europe after World War I and inspired the poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields.” The American Legion brought recognition of the poppy to honor all wars through National Poppy Day. National Poppy Day is declared the Friday before Memorial Day, after the passage of House Simple Resolution 309.
To honor and remember those on Memorial Day, you can join fellow Americans at 3 pm in a moment of silence.
Social Media Graphics
Memorial Day Resources
Department of Veteran Affairs, Memorial Day history
Learn more about National Poppy Day
Watch the PBS Special on Memorial Day (Family-friendly)
Read the poem In Flanders Fields