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“Memorial Day is an official holiday in most states of the United States. It was observed on May 30 until 1971, when for federal employees,, the date was changed to the last Monday in May. With the exception of Louisiana, all states observing Memorial Day adopted the change. It is also known as Decoration Day.


The custom of placing flowers on the graves of the war began on May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, NY, and Waterloo has been recognized by Congress as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1868, Gen. John A. Logan, then president of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared that May 30 would be a day to decorate with “flowers the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”


After World War I the day was set aside to honor the of all American wars, and the custom was extended to pay homage to deceased relatives and friends, both military and civilian. The most solemn ceremony conducted on Memorial Day is the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns located in Arlington national Cemetery.


Some Southern states observe Confederate Memorial Day--April 26 in Georgia, the last Monday in April in Alabama and Mississippi, and May 10 in South Carolina. Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina do not observe the general holiday, and in Virginia the last Monday in May is called Confederate Memorial Day.”


From the Encyclopedia Americana, 1991 edition

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