Memorial Day

Hope Seelye

Officially established on May 30th in 1868, Memorial Day is more than just barbecues and traveling to kick off Summer. Instead, it recognizes the deserving men and women who died in wars fighting for our country. On the other hand, Veterans’ Day recognizes all who have served in the armed forces.

After President Lincoln’s assassination in April of 1865, many people took to decorating the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers. Decoration Day was not yet an official holiday, but flowers could be seen being placed on graves of the known and unknown. Many cities claim to be the birthplace of the tradition, however, many towns started honoring the veterans at about the same time.

So, whose idea was it to formally establish Memorial Day? General John A. Logan established Decoration Day on May 5th, 1868. Decoration Day was a day when people decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers to pay respect. The set date was May 30th, possibly because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The main celebration would take place at the veranda of the Arlington Mansion, which was home to various Washington officials. Once the speeches were over, children and members of the Grand Army of the Republic would place flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.

Before the 1900s were over, celebrations took place all over the country on May 30th. State legislatures designated the day as Memorial Day, as did the Navy and the Army. This day was meant to honor the soldiers who died in the Civil War. Then, after World War 1, legislatures established May 30th to remember all the soldiers who have died in American Wars. Finally, in 1971, Congress passed May 31th as Memorial Day.


Sadly, many soldiers who died fighting for our country were unable to be identified. This could have been from wounds, time, or just haste to bury the dead. So, today we have the tradition of laying a wreath on the Tomb Of the Unknown Soldier. Because all the unknown soldiers are too many to count and honor, many politicians and public figures place a wreath on the unknown soldier tomb, in order to honor all the unknown soldiers who have died.

Some current celebrations still take place locally. At the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery, there is a drive-through event and a ceremony at Purdy and Walters Cemetery. Various cemeteries may also have armed forces members in uniform placing flags on soldier’s graves.

Even in the midst of the Summer excitement, try to take a moment this year to be grateful for all those who died fighting for our country.



Memorial Day Weekend events 2021

Local remembrances: