Decoration Day

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Decoration Day is the former name of the Memorial Day holiday in the United States. Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War. It was a tradition initiated May 5, 1868, by General John A. Logan in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the organization for Union Civil War veterans. Logan issued a proclamation calling for Decoration Day to be observed annually and nationwide.[1] It was observed for the first time that year on Saturday May 30. The date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.[2] According to the White House, the May 30 date was chosen as the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom.[3]

Memorial events were held in 183 cemeteries in 27 states that year, and 336 in 1869.[4] The northern states quickly adopted the holiday. Michigan made Decoration Day an official state holiday in 1871; by 1890 every northern state had followed suit. The ceremonies were sponsored by the Women's Relief Corps, the women's auxiliary of the GAR, which had 100,000 members.

The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day, the latter term being first used in 1882.[5] "Memorial Day" didn't become the more common designation until after World War II, and wasn't declared the official name by Federal law until 1967.[6]

"Decoration Day" continues as an annual observance at many southern graveyards. Folks gather to reconnect with family and the community, honor the memories of their ancestors, and place flowers on graves and donate to cemetery committees for upkeep of the cemetery. Traditionally, families would arrive on the day before Decoration Sunday with hoes and shovels for a graveyard workday. In private family graveyards they would scrape the ground, trim the grass, make new plantings, and prune old ones.

Decoration Day may also refer to:


  1. ^ Alan Jabbour; Karen Singer Jabbour (31 May 2010). Decoration Day in the Mountains: Traditions of Cemetery Decoration in the Southern Appalachians. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-8078-3397-1. Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Hennig Cohen; Tristram Potter Coffin (1991). The Folklore of American holidays. Gale Research. p. 215. 
  3. ^ "Barack Obama, Weekly Address, May 29, 2010, transcript". 2010-05-29. Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  4. ^ Blight (2004), pp.99–100
  5. ^ Henry Perkins Goddard; Calvin Goddard Zon (2008). The Good Fight That Didn't End: Henry P. Goddard's Accounts of Civil War and Peace. Univ of South Carolina Press. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-57003-772-6. 
  6. ^ Alan Axelrod (1 June 2007). Miracle at Belleau Wood: The Birth of the Modern U.S. Marine Corps. Globe Pequot. p. 233. ISBN 978-1-59921-025-4.