Each year the last Monday in May has been designated as Memorial Day. Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was declared a Federal holiday in 1971 to honor military personnel who lost their lives in the service of the United States. At 3:00 p.m. in each time zone, there is a minute of silence observed across the nation. There are also numerous ceremonies and events held throughout the country.

Celebrations of Memorial Day

One traditional ceremony is the National Memorial Day Observance made at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington National Cemetery. The National Memorial Day parade is another conventional activity that takes place with featured floats, marching bands, youth groups and hundreds of veterans from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The city of Little Neck-Douglaston, New York, holds a Memorial Day Parade each year with almost 10,000 people marching. Chicago, Illinois, also has a magnificent parade that initiates in Daley Plaza(named after Richard J. Daley, Mayor of Chicago for over 20 years).

One variation of the traditional parade is held in New York, New York. Since 1984, there has been a celebration of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard with a parade of ships. There are also air and water displays and ship tours with the chance for the public to meet the people who serve in these branches of the military. There is a wreath laying as part of the ceremony for the departed military. Also included in the celebration is a fly-over by the Navy, the Three Volley Salute and the unfurling of a 100-foot American flag. Other cities have events similar to those held in New York. For example in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, there are parades and parachute jumpers. In Preston, Minnesota, one significant ceremony for the state is the laying of wreaths, music from the 34th Infantry Division Band, and a parade of flags.

Memorial Day Marks the Beginning of Summer

The holiday of Memorial Day is also the start of summer. Many schools are closed for summer vacation after this last Monday in May, so families head to the beach or the mountains. Often they pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the outdoors. Others light their grill and enjoy eating outdoors.