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The final Monday of each May brings us Memorial Day, a time to remember soldiers who have died while serving. While we remember that day’s fallen soldiers, it’s also good to take some time to look at the history of the holiday and why we celebrate it. Here are the facts about Memorial Day.
1. In its original form, Memorial Day was just for honoring those who died in the Civil War, which was the deadliest war in American history, killing 620,000 Americans (compared with about 644,000 in all other wars combined).
2. The Thursday before each memorial day, soldiers from The Old Guard put flags near each gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery, numbering over 260,000. They then patrol the cemetery all weekend to make sure that every single one stays standing until Memorial Day. The tradition is called Flags In and has been going on since 1948.
3. The holiday was originally called Decoration Day and was celebrated May 30.
4. In 2000, Congress passed a law that required Americans observe a moment of silence at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day.
5. Although there is a solemn reason for the holiday, most Americans today see it as a reason to take a long weekend trip (over 36 million people travel on the holiday), and have some outdoor fun. 53% of people grill on Memorial Day.
6. Some states actually observe Confederate Memorial Days, despite the fact that Memorial Day was originally for Union soldiers. The only state who has the two on the same day is Virginia, while others set aside other days.
7. Waterloo, New York was officially recognized by Congress as the birthplace of Memorial Day.