Memorial Day is a United States holiday to remember the men and women who have died while serving in the armed forces. The armed forces include all branches of the U.S. military. Those branches are Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Memorial Day is a federal holiday, which means government offices, banks, post offices, and schools are closed. Memorial Day is always observed on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day has its roots in the U.S. Civil War when a holiday, Decoration Day, was established to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who died. On Decoration Day people used to "decorate" the graves of deceased soldiers with flags and flowers. The name Memorial Day became more widely used after World War II in the late 1940s. However, the holiday wasn't officially called Memorial Day until 1967.
Memorial Day is commemorated by ceremonies in cemeteries across the country. The most well-known one is held in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C. Arlington is a military cemetery, meaning only military personnel are buried there. Volunteers place U.S. flags on military graves at Arlington and other national cemeteries. There are also parades in honor of fallen service people held in different towns and cities. Another Memorial Day tradition is flying the U.S. flag at half staff until noon, meaning it is flown at half its normal height. This is considered a sign of mourning. The flag is raised to its full height after noon as a sign that the military will rise up despite the loss. There is also a national Memorial Day concert that takes place on the lawn of the U.S. Capital.
Memorial Day is also known as the unofficial start of the summer season. Many beaches and pools open up for Memorial Day weekend. Many people also host barbecues on Memorial Day weekend.
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