The holiday – observed each year on the last Monday in May – marks a three-day weekend for most Americans, and many consider it the unofficial start to summer.
It was first known as Decoration Day and established on May 5, 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.
It was celebrated on May 30 and Americans would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers from the Civil War with flowers.
A Memorial Day, silent and solemn, at Arlington National Cemetery.
By the late 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held nationwide. However, after World War I, the day was meant to honor soldiers who have died in all American wars such as World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the Iraq and Afganistan wars.
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to officially establish Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, according to History.com. This effectively created a three-day weekend for federal employees, although the change didn’t take effect until 1971.
Today, Americans spend the three-day weekend participating in various activities from parades, ceremonies and vigils to honor those who have lost their lives to protect our freedom.
Although this year, the celebrations will likely be virtual due to the pandemic.
Here are some events to watch out for this Memorial Day weekend.
- The National Moment of Remembrance, established by Congress, asks Americans to pause for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day.
- Each VA national cemetery will live stream a wreath-laying ceremony accompanied by a moment of silence and the playing of Taps. The ceremonies will take place on May 25.
- The National Veterans Memorial and Museum will be holding various activities to honor the fallen men and women through a virtual run, candlelight vigil, a remembrance ceremony and an exclusive showing of a World War II documentary. The museum is also inviting motorcyclists to a “rendezvous at the Museum” as part of the Ride2NVMM.
- National Memorial Day Observance at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetary will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 31.
(This list will continuously be updated as the holiday approaches.)