Memorial Day was observed on May 30 from 1868 until 1970 but is now observed annually on the last Monday in May. Memorial Day is considered a federal holiday in the United States in which we honor and mourn members of the military who have passed while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day began with an idea from General John Logan as a way to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. The first celebration on May 30, 1868, was held at Arlington National Cemetery with a crowd of 5,000 people decorating the graves of over 20,000 military personnel with flowers. It wasn’t until after World War I that Memorial Day was expanded to honor all veterans who died in any American war. In 1971, Decoration Day became officially known as Memorial Day and Congress passed an act declaring it a national holiday.
People wear poppies to honor America’s war dead in a Memorial Day tradition that dates back to the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written in 1915 by John McCrae. Inspired by the poem’s image of red poppies scattered through cross-shaped grave markers, American Moina Michael and France’s Anna E. Guerin started selling artificial poppies as a fundraiser for children affected by the war. Now, many Americans pin a poppy on their shirt as a sign of respect.