18 Things You Don’t Know About Memorial Day (But Should)

Source: Explorecdale via Wikimedia Commons

16. Other cities claim to be the first place the holiday was celebrated

Waterloo, New York, may have the federal imprimatur as the first town to celebrate Memorial Day, but other American municipalities beg to differ. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, traces its claim to a gathering of women in 1864 to mourn those who were killed in the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place 125 miles southeast of the town the prior year. Folks in Carbondale, Illinois, cite a parade in 1866 that was led, in part, by the same John Logan who would advocate for an official Memorial Day two years later. In the South, two towns in Mississippi and Georgia named Columbus each claim they were the first to formally remember the war dead.

Source: powerofforever / Getty Images

17. It became a federal holiday in 1971

Americans supported Decoration Day immediately in 1868, and by 1890, every state had adopted it as an official holiday. However, it was not officially recognized nationwide until Congress declared it a national holiday in 1971.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

18. There was a movement to shift the holiday back to May 30

Decoration Day or Memorial Day had always been observed on May 30. That was changed after the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 went into effect, moving Memorial Day to the last Monday in May. In effect, that gave Americans a long weekend and the unofficial start to summer. Veterans’ groups have opposed this idea because it detracts from the original intention of the holiday — to honor the nation’s war dead. They’ve lobbied to return the day to May 30. Among those who had supported the idea was Hawaiian senator and World War II hero Daniel Inouye. Until his death in 2012, Inouye introduced legislation in support of the change at the start of every congressional term.