HOW “DECORATION DAY” BECAME “MEMORIAL DAY”
The practice of decorating soldiers’ graves is an ancient one.
Reports and discussions describing the history of Memorial day in the United States suggests it evolved during and after the Civil War. The practice of devoting a day for decorating soldiers’ graves appears to have begun in the South; and was later copied in the North. There was no common agreement with regard to what day the soldiers should be honored.
The practice of honoring soldiers killed by their countrymen in the Civil War war was not given a specific name and day until May 5, 1868 when General John A. Logan issued a proclamation calling for “Decoration Day” to be observed annually and nationwide.
The call for local communities in the South and North to agree upon a common day for decorating the graves of all soldiers who died in the Civil War asked people to look beyond the reasons why the soldiers had fought that war in order to commemorate their deaths.
“Memorial Day” was first used as a synonym for “Decoration Day” in 1882. But “Decoration Day” was not changed to “Memorial Day” officially until 1967.
Funny, that I do not recall the official name change. 1967 was the year I graduated from high school in Bettendorf, Iowa. The United States was in the midst of the Vietnam War.
Maybe the reason I cannot remember is because we, the people, had already changed the name before the government got around to memorializing it.
Did you know the United States has been at war with some other country or nation for 221 years out of its 235 calendar years of its existence?
Undoubtedly many of these wars were justly fought to preserve the ideals we as American’s cherish. But, were all?
Hopefully, in memorializing – remembering – we will reflect upon what those who have given their lives have died for. If the pain and sorrow brought by their deaths have given us cause to reflect on how to better love our worldly neighbors, and avoid future conflict – we will do well – and those remembered have done well.
(I originally wrote and published this post entitled “How Decoration Day became Memorial Day” on May 25, 2015.)