Memorial Day is set aside as a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. In May of 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, Decoration Day was established by the Grand Army of the Republic as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. The date -- May 30th -- is believed to have been chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
There are many stories about the actual beginnings of the holiday and several cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of the holiday, but on May 26, 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation recognizing Waterloo, New York, as the official birthplace, based on records of ceremonies held in May of 1866 -- two full years before the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration day. "On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May." You can read more about Memorial day here, here, here, and here.
To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of the day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed on Dec 2000. It asks all Americans to pause at 3 p.m., local time, "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps."
I think the people who died in service to our country would like the compromise this National Moment of Remembrance gives us. Surely after giving their lives for this country, they wouldn't want us to commemorate their sacrifice by wearing sack cloth and ashes. I can't help but think that most of those men and women are smiling down on our exuberant American ways of celebrating -- our parades, boating parties, backyard picnics and best of all, our escape from our usual work.