Memorial Day 2024: Unveiling Its Date, Traditions, and History

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is not just an opportunity to have a barbecue and enjoy a day off from work. It was established to pay homage to the countless American soldiers who lost their lives in military service. This emphasis on those who gave their lives distinguishes it from Veterans’ Day, which commemorates all military veterans, both living and deceased.

After the end of the Civil War, various towns across the United States started local observances to honor and remember fallen soldiers. One such gathering took place on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina where freed slaves organized a tribute and proper burial for Union troops. This initiative later culminated in a national event to commemorate the sacrifices made by soldiers who gave their lives for their country.

During the first national commemoration, former Union General and current Ohio Congressman James Garfield delivered a speech at Arlington National Cemetery. After that, 5,000 participants helped decorate the graves of over 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

When is Memorial Day 2024?

Memorial Day is a national holiday observed in the United States on the last Monday of May every year. In 2024, Memorial Day will be celebrated on Monday, May 27th. In Canada, Memorial Day is also observed, but it is referred to as Remembrance Day, and it takes place on November 11th. In the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorial Day is combined with Canada Day, which is celebrated on July 1st. Additionally, Victoria Day, which falls on May 20th, 2024, is considered the unofficial start of summer in Canada.

Country Memorial Day Date / Remembrance Day
United States 27th May 2024, Monday
Canada 11th November 2024
United Kingdom 11th November 2024
Australia 11th November 2024

Memorial Day Around The World

Memorial Days and similar celebrations are observed in various parts of the world, with each country commemorating them on different days and with diverse customs. Although not related to each other, these days of remembrance hold significant importance for their respective cultures. Here are a few examples, but not an exhaustive list, of such days observed across the globe.

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is a widely recognized memorial holiday celebrated in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth of Nations comprises countries that were former colonies of the United Kingdom, including Canada, India, Australia, and many others, though it’s not a public holiday in most of them. The day is observed on November 11 each year, which marks the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.

The tradition of observing a day to honor those who died in any war was first started in England by King George V in 1919. Initially called Armistice Day, it has since evolved to include all those who have lost their lives in wars. Nowadays, most of the Remembrance Day traditions take place on the Sunday closest to November 11, which is known as Remembrance Sunday.

November 11 holds significant importance in many countries that participated in World War I, even beyond the Commonwealth of Nations. France and Belgium observe this day as Armistice Day, a military celebration. In Poland, it is celebrated as Independence Day as Poland achieved independence at the end of the war. In the United States, November 11 is observed as Veterans Day, but Remembrance Day is more closely aligned in purpose with U.S. Memorial Day.

The History Of U.S. Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a widely celebrated holiday in the United States, and many places in the country claim to be the home of the “original” Memorial Day. Although the first Memorial Day was held around 1866, in remembrance of the massive death toll of the U.S. Civil War, it is difficult to determine which city held the first event. About 25 cities in the North and South believe they were the originator, including Macon, Georgia; Columbus, Mississippi; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Richmond, Virginia.

During the early Memorial Day ceremonies, a group of people, typically women, would visit a cemetery to decorate the graves of the deceased. In fact, for most of its history, Memorial Day was referred to as Decoration Day due to this tradition.

In 1868, General John A. Logan declared May 30th as Decoration Day, which later became known as Memorial Day. The date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any Civil War battle. At first, it was only a commemoration for those who died during the Civil War. However, as the country faced more wars in the 20th century, the meaning of Memorial Day expanded to include all those who died while serving in the military. Today, it is a nationwide holiday observed on the last Monday of May to honor and remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in service to their country.

Before becoming an official holiday, Decoration Day was celebrated for 100 years. In 1968, the US government passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which changed certain holidays, including Labor Day, Columbus Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day, so they always fell on a Monday. The law officially took effect in 1971, which is when Memorial Day became an official holiday. However, the shift from May 30 to the last Monday in May has been controversial. Some argue that it changed the focus from somber remembrance to a fun three-day weekend. Despite attempts to change it back, the holiday remains on the last Monday in May.

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, is a federal holiday observed in the US to remember and pay tribute to US service members who have fallen while serving in the armed forces. This day was observed on May 30th from 1868 until 1970, after which it was rescheduled to be celebrated on the last Monday of May every year starting from 1971.
People attend a variety of events in the United States, ranging from small community gatherings to large sports competitions. One such event is the Indianapolis 500 motor race, also known as the "Indy" 500, which attracts an estimated 300,000 people on the Saturday before Memorial Day. Additionally, many Americans visit cemeteries on Memorial Day, where volunteers often place American flags on graves as a sign of respect and remembrance.
A better and more respectful way to acknowledge Memorial Day is by using phrases like "Remembering and honoring those who have served on Memorial Day" or "Reflecting on the sacrifices of our service members on Memorial Day." These phrases highlight the solemn and commemorative nature of the holiday.
Many major retailers and grocery stores, including Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT), and Kroger (KR), will be open on Monday. However, Costco (COST) will be closed in observance of the holiday. Sam's Club will have reduced hours and will close at 6 p.m. local time, according to Walmart.
Luckily, most major retailers, including grocery stores, restaurants, and retail stores, remain open on Memorial Day. However, there are a few notable exceptions.

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