We all love a reason to take a day off, grill hotdogs, get sunburned, and appreciate that summer is nearly here. Today, 44% of American households hosting or attending barbecues will spend an estimated $1.6 billion on meat and seafood, and almost a million motorcycles are expected to turn out for the annual Rolling Thunder rally. But behind the banners and noise of the holiday, the reason for Memorial Day is much more somber—something reverent and rooted in our history, something that many veterans and their loved ones have occasion to remember every day. It’s about honoring those who have lost their lives in combat.
How Did Memorial Day Start?
Memorial Day began in 1868, when General John A. Logan designated May 30 as a day to honor more than 620,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War. The selected date heralded the bloom of flowers nationwide, suitable for decorating the soldiers’ resting places.
A century later, in 1968, Congress, aiming to create a long weekend for federal employees, passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, shifting Memorial Day to the last Monday in May from 1971 onwards. Thus, Memorial Day became a federal holiday.
Memorial Day By the Numbers
Reflecting the magnitude of this national observance, here are some notable figures:
- 1.5 million: The number of viewers of the National Memorial Day Parade.
- 260,000: The number of graves adorned with flags at Arlington National Cemetery in 2019.
- 45 million: The number of Americans who have served in times of war.
- 3 p.m.: The time when a nationwide moment of silence is observed.
Safety Over the Holiday
Considering the number of barbecues, events, and parades over the holiday weekend, it’s unfortunately one that also sees more than 50,000 car accidents. 450 fatalities occur in these accidents, 41% of which are alcohol-related. We would be remiss to not encourage you to be safe, schedule rides if you’re going to be drinking, and keep those around you accountable.
On this day, we remember those who gave their lives for their country and honor their memory. The significance of Memorial Day is a testament to resilience and courage. To celebrate is to acknowledge the triumph of the human spirit, but as we partake in the festivities, let’s pause to remember our heroes. Be safe!