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Video: 25 interesting and little-known facts about Memorial Day

Flags stand vigil at gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery. (Adam Skoczylas/U.S. Army)
May 25, 2020

This video highlights 25 little-known Memorial Day facts that may stump even the most well-read history and military buffs in the United States. How many Americans travel on Memorial Day weekend? Why did southern states refuse to celebrate Memorial Day until after the Civil War? At what time is the American flag moved from half to full mast on Memorial Day? What is the Confederate Memorial Day and how is it related to the Memorial Day we know today?

The answers to these questions, and many more, can be found in the video below:

A recap of the 25 interesting things are listed below:

25.  Memorial Day was formerly known as, “The Decoration Day.” The day originally was intended to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who fell in the American Civil War.

24.  The origins of the first Memorial Day celebration is debated, with claims in Gettysburg, Pa., Savannah, Ga., and Warrenton, Va.

23.  The original date to observe Memorial Day was on May 30, up until 1971 when the holiday was moved to make sure there was always a long weekend. Presently that still stands, with the holiday falling on the last Monday of May.

22.  The date of Memorial Day wasn’t the only thing that changed in 1971. Memorial Day also became a Federal Holiday that year.

21.  The Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is one of the places where major Memorial Day ceremonies take place. The cemetery is home to over 400,000 graves, making it one of the largest cemeteries in the world.

20.  The traffic on Memorial Day weekend is extremely heavy each year, due to the number of travelers getting away for the weekend. Each year, approximately 40 million Americans travel more than 50 miles from their home.

19.  In the year 2000, Congress passed the National Monument of Remembrance Act. This requires all Americans to stop what they are doing at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, and pay their respects to those who lost their lives.

18.  The moment of remembrance above is generally a minute long, and companies like Amtrak and Major League Baseball observe this each year.

17.  Memorial Day’s former name, “Decorative Day,” was adopted and celebrated by the Union States before the Confederate States.

16.  After WWI, southern states finally adopted the holiday. By the time this occurred, Memorial Day was adapted to include all American soldiers from all wars.

15.  Wearing red poppies are a common Memorial Day tradition. This tradition stemmed from a poem called “In Flanders Field”, written by Lt. Col. John McCrae in 1915.

14.  In 1924, after a shortage of poppies from France, a manufacturer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania created an artificial poppy factory which hired veterans who needed work.

13.  On Memorial Day, a group of bikers host an event called the “Rolling Thunder Run.” This annual motorcycle rally pays tribute to fallen heroes, as well as POW and MIA individuals. As of 2020, it is now called “Rolling to Remember.”

12.  The “Rolling Thunder Run” began in 1988 with 2,500 bikers. It eventually grew to approximately a million bikers and spectators.

11.  Since 1976, PGA has hosted a golf tournament on or around Memorial Day. This event is known as the Memorial Tournament, and is played in Dublin, Ohio.

10.  With the federal holiday of Memorial Day celebrated nationwide, some southern states also celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, honoring those who died for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

9.  Every year, at the Memorial Day celebration at Arlington National Cemetery, there is approximately 5,000 people in attendance.

8.  One of the original traditions of Memorial Day is to sit on a picnic blanket at a cemetery. Some rural areas still participate in this tradition.

7.  In the 2012 film, “Memorial Day,” a young boy finds his grandfather’s footlocker from WWII. The film shows the importance of Memorial Day at even a young age.

6.  On Memorial Day the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of the nation’s battle heroes.

5.  According to the Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association, Memorial Day is the second most popular day to BBQ following the Fourth of July.

4.  The longest-running Memorial Day parade takes place in Ironton, Ohio. They have had a parade every year since 1868.

3.  The first Memorial Day speech was given by James Abram Garfield, at Arlington National Cemetery.

2.  Two of the biggest car races of the year take place on Memorial Day weekend: NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in North Carolina, and the Indianapolis 500 in Indiana.

1.  The National Memorial Day concert is held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., which is attended each year by over half a million people. The event is also available for stream for all service-members.