Memorial Day Weekend
When Is Memorial Day and How Is It Observed? Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Memorial Day is not just a great excuse for a cookout and a day off from work, but it was created to honor the American men and women who died in military service.

According to The Pioneer Woman, the holiday's meaning is truly about those heroic women and men, and the remarkable sacrifices they made. In order to properly pay your respects to the soldiers, you'll have to first know when to do so.

When is Memorial Day this year?

It is always commemorated in America on the last Monday in May, and in 2022, it is on May 30, reported Farmers' Almanac.

History and facts of Memorial Day

Originally, the day was set aside to remember Union soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Civil War. But after World War I, its scope expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. Many U.S. cities held their own memorial observations for their hometown heroes at the end of the Civil War. Through an act of Congress in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday.

The special flower associated with Memorial Day

Poppies are associated with those who passed during wartime since World War I, and in the U.S., people wear the red poppy on Memorial Day to honor those who died trying to protect the country. Poppies were the only flowers that grew in war-torn battlefields, so the red color is not a symbol of blood, death, or support for war. Poppy flowers sprouted up and flourished when the countrysides were nothing but mud and devastation.

The red poppies inspired a Canadian soldier, Colonel John McCrae, to write a poem in May 1915, and it moved so many, especially Anna E. Guerin of France and Moina Michael of Georgia. The two women sold artificial poppies to benefit children left orphaned by the war. Later, the Friday before Memorial Day was designated as Poppy Day.

Birthplace of Memorial Day

As many as 25 places in the U.S. claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. Some states that claim ownership of the origins include Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Illinois. On May 30, 1966, the US Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day amid conflicting claims.

Difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day

Both the days honor the sacrifices made by U.S. Veterans but serve different purposes, according to USA Today. Originally called “Armistice Day,” Veterans’ Day, is a younger holiday. It was established in 1926 as a way to commemorate all those who had served in the U.S. armed forces during World War I whereas Memorial Day honors all those who’ve died. Observed on Nov. 11, Veterans Day signifies the Armistice that ended combat in World War I in 1918. Armistice Day's purpose broadened after World War II and changed in 1954 to recognize those who have served in all American wars.

Why Memorial Day is in May?

The day that Americans celebrate as Memorial Day is believed to be influenced by Illinois U.S. Representative John A. Logan. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in November 1858, and served as an officer during the Mexican War. Logan, a staunch defender of the Union, apparently believed Memorial Day should occur when flowers are in full bloom across the country. According to the U.S. Congressional Research Service, Congress passed an act making May 30 a holiday in the District of Columbia in 1888.

So, Memorial Day weekend is not just about grilling recipes, burgers, and ice cream, but it marks a thoughtful day of observance, centered on remembering the millions of Americans in uniform who gave their lives for the U.S.

Memorial Day Weekend
Graves of fallen soldiers are dressed with American flags to mark Memorial Day Weekend at Cypress Hill Cemetery in Brooklyn on May 29, 2022 in New York City. Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

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