Memorial Day is a secular holiday that was created to honor and pay respect for fallen soldiers. It is a day to visit the gravesites of loved ones and ancestors and place flowers by their headstones. Flags are flown at half-staff until noon and small flags are placed by the graves.
Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day. Both the North and South had been putting flowers on the graves of loved ones who perished in the American Civil War. The casualties of this war were high, 498,332 lives. On May 5, 1868 General John Logan, Commander-in-Chief of Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order No. 11, which officially proclaimed Decoration Day. It was first observed on May 30, 1868. However, the South decided to honor their dead on a different day up until World War I. In 1882, the named was changed to Memorial Day and in 1971 the day was declared a national holiday.
Memorial Day falls on the last Monday of the month. Many people take advantage of this three-day weekend and travel to beaches, lakes, or up to the mountains with their families. Parades, barbecues, and picnics are traditional as well. Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer.