Here comes May. In Poland we have the so called ‘długi weekend’ which consists of Labour Day, Flag Day and the Constitution Day. We take time off from work, meet our family or friends, have barbecues and travel. (Of course, not in the era of coronavirus ) What’s May got for the Americans? What does Memorial Day mean?

Memorial Day – a holiday to honor the national heroes

For the U.S. citizens May is a month of important annual celebration. The day is called Memorial Day and it is a federal holiday set up to commemorate the brave men and women who died for the United States of America in military service throughout the history. It is a moveable feast but it always falls on the last Monday of May. This year it’s on 25th May.

Memorial Day – USA

When did the celebration start?

Commemorating those who died for the country has always been a part of human history. However, the beginning of the American Memorial Day celebration can be traced to the period after the Civil War. Civil War was a military conflict between the north and south States of the USA, as a result of which, slavery was abolished. It took place in the sixties of the nineteenth century. First, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day, then after some time its name was changed.

How do Americans celebrate the day?

As mentioned before, it is a federal holiday, so schools and workplaces are closed. People adorn the graves of those who died for their country and put up flags on the memorials. There are city parades with important guests invited to them. Cemeteries are visited on both national and private level. There is a special event which takes place in the Arlington National Cemetery. It is atteneded by the President of the U.S. The headstones of the war heroes are decorated with American flags a couple of days before.

The National Memorial Day concert is held on Sunday in Washington. It is broadcast on PBS.

There is also a special National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time in which people are asked to stop for one minute and think about the national heroes. 

Together with the weekend before, Memorial Day’s Monday is an opportunity to spend some time with one’s family, throw up parties, have barbecues or go to the beach and sunbathe. The day is considered as the unofficial beggining of the summer season.

Autor: Honorata Turczyn