The Significance of Memorial Day in American Culture

Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend with amazing sales – it is a day of remembrance for all who lost their lives while serving in the army. The annual tradition of Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day, which was made official by Major General John A. Logan. On May 5th, 1868, Major Logan created an order that set the date May 30th, 1868, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” This day commemorated and honored the dead after an estimated 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War. Following World War II, in 1967, federal law decreed Memorial Day as the official name. Now, after multiple wars, Memorial Day celebrates the memory of all the men and women who have given their lives in service.

Set on the last Monday of every May, Memorial Day is celebrated by extravagant parades where thousands gather each year to honor the soldiers’ sacrifices. In Ridgewood, a ceremony is held and a Memorial Day run is organized. In 2018, the Ridgewood community gathered together and participated in The Fred D’Elia Ridgewood Run at Veterans Memorial Field. Later that day, the American Legion Post 53 hosted a service open to the public to attend.

The American Legion is the world’s largest veterans’ service organization that assists veterans, their families, and communities. As an organization, they encourage serving one another at a local level and being active participants in making society a better place to live. They make a difference in veterans’ lives by offering help with rehabilitation, homelessness, benefits, and special needs.

In addition to the ceremony, the American Legion Post 53 holds a Memorial Day flag placement in which they visit the graves of fallen soldiers and honor them with the placement of Memorial Day flags at Valleau Cemetery. Throughout the year, this organization holds various events to commemorate veterans such as the 4th of July Parade, Gold Star Mother’s day event, Blue Star families dinner, Veterans Day service, and wreath laying. At Ridgewood High School, a Veterans Day panel is held, designed to educate students.

Federal Memorial Day, established in 1888, allowed Civil War veterans to take a day off from work to commemorate their lost comrades without being docked the day’s pay. Later, the states one by one declared Memorial Day a legal holiday. On the first ceremony of Memorial Day, during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, James Garfield stated, “If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of fifteen-thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.” Happy Memorial Day to the Ridgewood community, and remember to thank and honor our country’s veterans.


Sanjna Rajagopalan
staff writer

Graphic: Photo of the Ridgewood Run obtained from ridgewoodrun.com

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