Although it is widely believed that Major General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) made the declaration that announced the first “official” Decoration Day observance, some southern states were already celebrating their own versions of Decoration Day as they went to cemeteries where deceased soldiers were buried to don the graves with flowers. General Logan’s announcement on May 5, 1868, proclaimed that the first official “Decoration Day” observance would be held on May 30 of that year.
The First Official “Decoration Day” Observance and Celebration
According to Library of Congress records, May 30, 1868 was the day on which the first official “Decoration Day” celebration occurred, and it was held at the most appropriate possible place – Arlington National Cemetery, the nation’s national cemetery. The ceremony that took place before children walked through the cemetery to place flowers on each grave, took place on the veranda of the Arlington Mansion – the former home of General Robert E. Lee. In recognition of the solemnity of the occasion, the veranda was draped in a manner that was appropriate for a period of mourning.
General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife were asked to lead the ceremony, which also included speeches from other important dignitaries of the time. After all the speeches and formalities, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home accompanied members of the GAR as they walked through Arlington National Cemetery, laying flowers on the graves of every Confederate and Union soldier who was laid to rest there. As they made their way through the cemetery, they sang hymns and said prayers.
“Decoration Day” Becomes Memorial Day
At the end of World War I, the realization that so many more soldiers had died in combat prompted the name of the observance to be changed to Memorial Day. The scope of the celebration was expanded to include all America soldiers who died while serving their country.
Nevertheless, that change wasn’t accepted unanimously. Critics argued that widening the scope to include all soldiers would diminish the original vision of the observance, which was designed to highlight the dichotomies between slavery and freedom and civilization and barbarianism.
Spirit of America
Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968
In 1968, Congress passed a bill that established that Memorial Day would be observed every year on the last Monday of May. The reason for a movable date that always occurred on the final Monday of May was to give federal employees a three-day holiday. That law also applies to other federal holidays and observances. The new law went into effect in 1971, when Memorial Day acquired recognition as an official federal holiday.
Choosing Your Flowers for Memorial Day
The traditional flowers associated with Memorial Day are the flowers that can be used to decorate graves. Red roses were used even before General Logan made the announcement about the first official Decoration Day observance.
Maybe you are looking for something more decorative to place at a celebration such as a barbecue to celebrate the arrival of summer and to honor the freedom that fallen service members have provided the country? The Spirit of America is a charming design featuring beautiful red roses nestled among delicate daisies, and is topped off with an American flag!
Our Let Freedom Ring basket features delphinium, carnations, gerbera daisies and assorted fillers making it a beautiful patriotic tribute.
Let the Stadium Flowers floral designers help you choose the perfect wreath, flower spray, standing easel, or decorative patriotic arrangement so you can honor the fallen heroes in your life.