Memorial Day or formerly referred to as Decoration Day is one of the federal holidays in the United States for remembering those individuals who perished while serving in the Armed Forces of this country. The Memorial Day holiday is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May. It will be recognized this year on May 28th. The Memorial Day weekend is often considered the unofficial launch of the summer season. On the Memorial Day holiday, many individuals visit cemeteries and memorials to particularly honor those who have died while serving in the military. It is often customary for volunteers to place an American flag on each grave in our national cemeteries. According to Wikipedia, the practice of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient custom. Some believe that an annual cemetery decoration practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the “Memorial Day” idea. However, the tradition of decorating soldier’s graves took hold before and during the American Civil War and has continued to this day. Decoration Day originated in May of 1865 at the end of the American Civil War and became known as the Federal Holiday of Memorial Day in 1971. Arlington National Cemetery located in the Washington, DC Capital Region conducts a Memorial Day Ceremony where the President of the United States places a wreath honoring the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In addition, every grave in Arlington National Cemetery is decorated with an American flag to recognize the sacrifice made by those who have served the country. The decorating of Arlington National Cemetery is a visual scene that resonates nationwide and truly represents the holiday.
Parades, patriotic shows, fireworks, family gatherings, picnics, and going to the beach are often synonymous with Memorial Day throughout the United States. Washington, DC is home to the annual Rolling Thunder Parade and the Memorial Day Parade that runs down Constitution Avenue. VIU is fortunate to be located in the nation’s capital where so many events occur this Memorial Day weekend. Our students who come from across the globe are encouraged to take advantage of these events to enhance their cultural experience in the USA. Whatever one’s plans are for this Memorial Day weekend, may they contain an element of remembrance and gratitude along with enjoying the special activities that make this holiday truly American. The faculty and staff at VIU wish everyone a safe and memorable Memorial Day!