Of all the holidays that we celebrate as Americans, one of the most important is Memorial Day. But despite the fact that it happens every year, many people think of the holiday as simply a celebration of the beginning of summer — a time to barbecue with friends, hang out at the beach, and book fun travel plans. We get the day off of work and there are parades all over the nations, but why do we celebrate Memorial Day? The history behind the holiday is just as important as the time you're planning to spend with your family.

According to the History Channel, Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. The site notes that it was established on May 6, 1862 by General John A. Logan as a way to remember the soldiers who were killed during the Civil War. The date wasn't the anniversary of any specific battle, but rather a date he chose as a way to honor everyone who had died.

Though no one is really sure how, eventually people began calling the day Memorial Day, and during World War I, the date came to signify remembrance for all wars, not just the Cicil War.

In 1971, the Federal Government established the holiday on the last Monday of May, as a way to grant employees a three day weekend. Although, to this day, some states celebrate on different dates (Texas on January 19, and Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida on April 26th), most states reserve the last Monday of May as a day to honor all of America's fallen soldiers, in wars both past and present.

Besides honoring the national moment of remembrance at three p.m. local time, there are lots of amazing ways to celebrate the true history of Memorial Day with your family and friends this year.

1. Attend Your Local Parade


Chances are, no matter the size of your town or city, there's a local parade that honors Memorial Day. Round up your kids, or your dog, or your SO and watch the parade- the candy is just a bonus.

2. Host A Cook Out


The quintessential Memorial Day gathering is tradition for a reason. There's nothing better than cooking a delicious meal with your friends and family and spending time outside.

3. Thank A Veteran

Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 07: Edward Davis, Pearl Harbor survivor and D-Day+6 veteran, attends a ceremony at the World War II Memorial marking the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. More than 2,400 Americans lost their lives in the surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy and the attack forced the United States into World War II. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Chances are there are people in your life that you didn't even realize were veterans. Call them up or, better yet, invite them to your cook out, and say thank you for their service.

4. Visit A National Cemetery

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ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 06: A bugler plays 'Taps' during the funeral of Army Corporal David J. Wishon at Arlington National Cemetery May 6, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia. Corporal Wishon was assigned to a medical unit in the 7th Infantry Division when he went missing after an attack on Dec. 1, 1950 in the Korean War. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Taking your kids to a national cemetery is a great way to educate them about the meaning behind Memorial Day. Bring some poppies (tradition after a famous John McCrae poem Flanders Field) or flags to decorate the graves.

5. Send A Soldier A Care Package


Another great kid-friendly way to celebrate is by sending a soldier (either in your hometown or elsewhere) a thoughtful care package. Your kids will love putting it together and there isn't a more impactful way to express your thanks. Look up AnySoldier.com to be connected with any soldier currently serving.