Memorial Day formally began in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War. The day was originally called "Decoration Day."
"Mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery."
(Source - 1868: Civil War dead honored on Decoration Day https://www.history.com/this-day-in-his ... ration-day)
Facts at a glance:
• "Memorial Day originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865).
• Roughly 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War — making it the deadliest war in American history. About 644,000 Americans have died in all other conflicts combined.
• It wasn't always Memorial Day — it used to be known as Decoration Day.
• Red poppies are known as a symbol of remembrance, and it's a tradition to wear them to honor those who died in war."
(Source - 10 historical facts about Memorial Day https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nat ... /27817017/)
Video for middle grades: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGdg6cf2TpE
- Choosing the date
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 moved "Memorial Day from its traditional observance on May 30 (regardless of the day of the week), to a set day—the last Monday in May. The move has not been without controversy, though. Veterans groups, concerned that more Americans associate the holiday with first long weekend of the summer and not its intended purpose to honor the nation’s war dead, continue to lobby for a return to the May 30 observances."
- Expanding the holiday
"Memorial Day was not officially recognized nationwide until the 1970s, with America deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War." It became a Federal Holiday in 1971.
- "One of the earliest commemorations was organized by recently freed slaves.
- "Soldiers plant flags in front of every tombstone on Memorial Day weekend.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers is among the Arlington graves honored on Memorial Day. However, "advancements in DNA testing may mean that all future remains will be able to be positively identified and no future interments at the Tomb of the Unknowns will occur.
Video teaching about the Tom of the Unknowns: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePnIOkZaCn4
Arlington video (somber): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM5bVX-yd-c
(Sources - https://www.history.com/news/8-things-y ... morial-day
https://www.history.com/news/arlington- ... sing-facts)
RED POPPIES AND A POEM:
The poppy specifically became the symbol of rememberance when later, in 1915, the poem In Flanders Fields was written in Britain during the first World War.
Two years later, in 1917, an American composer based a song or hymn on the poem.
- video (explanation and reading): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAWfiTM2KsA
- one of my favorites - old Charlie Brown movie of the poem, In Flanders Fields, including the symbol of the cross: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTvD6ZQJ3WI
- Salvation Army of UK/Ireland playing Taps and singing Flanders Field hymn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI-LXdvxTt8
- how to draw poppies (cute, no mention of the holiday) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkSBztJ_bMQ
- about the song (Library of Congress, dense reading more for interested parents) https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200035609/
IDEAS FOR SHARING THE DAY WITH KIDS:
Ideas for commemorating Memorial Day with Kids https://www.military.com/memorial-day/c ... ldren.html
Little ones: Memorial Day Surprise, storybook read aloud about all the parts of a Memorial Day Parade, including (spoiler) a grandfather who was a veteran: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJcKj4S7jZ8
Any other ideas you've found or traditions your family has shared?