Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner and for many people, that means an extra day to relax or plan something special. As my friends and I planned our long weekend adventures, it dawned on me that the holiday was coming up sooner than expected. Since it doesn't fall on the same day every year, I started wondering how is Memorial Day's date determined each year?
According to the website for the History Channel, Memorial Day was originally observed on May 30 and went by the name Decoration Day. The date was chosen by General John A. Logan — a leader for an organization for Northern Civil War veterans — because it wasn't the anniversary of any particular battle and could serve as a day to commemorate any and all who died in the defense of the United States. Widely observed on May 30 for more than 100 years, it wasn't until 1971 that the date began to change yearly.
According to the website for PBS, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed by Congress in 1971 and established that Memorial Day be celebrated on the last Monday of May every year. According to U.S. Memorial Day, this was so that it could create a convenient three-day weekend for everyone.
In addition to Memorial Day, Mississippi, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia are all states that host Confederate observances, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Though Southern states celebrate this day, US News noted that there is controversy around it because non-supporters of the day feel as if it promotes racism by honoring those who fought to uphold slavery. Although removed from the list of states that have Confederate observances in 2015, Georgia attempted to revive this label for the last Monday in April 2017, USA Today reported.
The value in Memorial Day spans far past that of an extra day off of work. It's dedication to those who have fought to serve America and for its freedom. So, although the reasoning behind the date of the holiday is rarely discussed, knowing as much history around it will help you realize its importance.