Memorial Day is an American holiday celebrated the last Monday of May, and honors all who have died serving the U.S. military. It was originally known as Decoration Day and began in the years following the Civil War. It did not become an official federal holiday until 1971. It is observed by visiting memorials and cemeteries and holding parades and ceremonies. More informally, since it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer and is a three-day weekend, it is also celebrated by having family gatherings and barbecues.
The first national cemeteries were created following the Civil War, which claimed more lives than any other conflict in U.S. history. Many communities began independently to hold springtime ceremonies for fallen soldiers. The first “Decoration Day” was May 30th, 1868, and was declared by General John A. Logan, a leader of an organization for northern Civil War veterans. He proclaimed that “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” May 30th was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any one particular battle. The first Decoration Day ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery, where 5,000 participants decorated the graves of 20,000 soldiers. By 1890, all northern states had declared it an official state-wide holiday. However, southern states continued to honor their fallen soldiers on separate days until after World War I.
After World War I, the holiday became known as Memorial Day and evolved to honor the fallen military personnel of all American conflicts, not just the Civil War. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as a federal holiday on the last Monday of May, in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The Act went into effect in 1971.
Locally, a ceremony will be held on Monday at 10:00am at the Veterans War Memorial of Texas in McAllen. There will also be a Heroes Tribute Night Trail Run at Resaca de Palma State Park on Saturday.