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Once upon a time in the 1860s, America was having a rather nasty family squabble known as the Civil War. As with any big family drama, it left a lot of loved ones feeling quite blue. To somehow mend fences and pay respects simultaneously, people came up with the idea to honor those who had bitten the big one.


Enter Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day. It had a catchy name because, well, who doesn’t like decorating? It sounds more festive than “Honoring Fallen Soldiers Day,” doesn’t it? So, folks started decorating the graves of soldiers with flowers, flags, and maybe even the occasional overly exuberant wreath. They thought, “Hey, let’s throw some flowers around, clean up the graveyards, and make a day of it.”


The exact origins of the holiday are about as clear as muddy water. Multiple towns claimed to be the birthplace of this grand tradition, sort of like fighting over who invented the cheeseburger. But in 1868, General John A. Logan said, “Enough already!” and declared a day of national remembrance on May 30. He probably picked that date because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle, plus it was a time when flowers would be in full bloom. People like flowers, remember?


It wasn’t until after the World Wars that Memorial Day became more serious (and less floral-focused) as Americans started to collectively remember all service members who had sacrificed their lives. By 1971, Congress decided that Memorial Day should always be on the last Monday in May. What can I say? They were fans of three-day weekends.


Today, Memorial Day signifies the unofficial start of summer. Families fire up their grills, slap on some sunscreen, and head to the beach. Veterans and current service members respectfully remind everyone that it’s not all about burgers and sales at the mall. While America’s traditions might involve hotdogs and some sporadic spring cleaning, the core of Memorial Day remains: honoring those who served and sacrificed.


So, when you’re catching a whiff of freshly cut grass mixed with barbecue smoke this Memorial Day, remember to pause and think of those who gave it all. It might just lend some deeper meaning to your hot dogs and potato salad.

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