What Was the Original Name for Memorial Day?

Elmira | 04 - 28 - 2021
Decoration Day

What was Memorial Day originally called? The observance of honoring dead people was started in 1868 by General John Logan. The event was called Decoration Day, referring to a tradition of decorating cemeteries and graves of those who lost their lives in the Civil War.

On the last Monday of May, Memorial Day is observed, honoring and mourning the soldiers who died in military service. Earlier, this day was started as an event to honor and show gratitude to Union Soldiers who sacrificed their lives during American Civil War. Over the years, this day began to honor all men and women who died in all United States wars. Decoration Day was formerly celebrated in May between 1868 to 1970. Memorial Day, aka Decoration Day, became an official holiday in 1971. 

During this day, people choose to honor or mourn for those fallen service members by visiting their graves, place American flags on cemeteries, display flags at half-staff from dawn to noon, and many other Memorial Day traditions are followed.

When Did They Change the Name from Decoration Day to Memorial Day?
  • A. 1967
  • B. 1980
  • C. 1970
  • D. 1985

When Did They Change the Name from Decoration Day to Memorial Day?

The truth is Decoration Day did not begin as an official federal holiday until the Civil War but was recognized as a day to honor the dead. Decoration Day was observed virtually across the country in what might be called a “movement.”

Memorial Day was designated as a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1971. But still, this day is often referred to as Decoration Day. Like other federal holidays, Memorial Day is also changed to last Monday in May.

Why Was May 30th Chosen as the Original Day to Celebrate Memorial Day?

The commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) issued general Order No. 11 to commence May 30th as a remembrance of those fallen brothers. It is believed that 30th May was picked because flowers would be spread all over the country.

General Logan stated that the 30th of May 1868 is designated to decorate soldiers’ graves, including strewing flowers for those cemeteries of comrades whose bodies now lie in village, city, or churchyard in the land. The alternative of the term Memorial Day was first used to honor all United States soldiers who sacrificed in service to the country. However, Memorial day was commonly used after World War I. At that time, red poppies were introduced as a symbol of honoring veterans. Over the course of time, Memorial Day started to replace Decoration Day.

Even though the name has changed, many senior citizens continue to call it Decoration Day. In December 2000, a resolution called the“National Moment of Remembrance” was passed. This resolution simply asks people to take a minute (3:00 pm local time) to show gratitude or remember those who lost their lives so that Americans may live in freedom. 

Memorial Day is also recognized as an unofficial start of summer in the USA. In contrast, Labor Day falls on the first Monday of September, considered as the unofficial start of autumn.

Read Next