Memorial Day often evokes an image of long weekends and parties. For those who serve, Memorial Day means something somber and beautiful. The ultimate sacrifice deserves both honor and respect, from those lucky enough to enjoy it.

Observed Vs. Memorial Day

Memorial Day is always May 30th. While most people enjoy the first Monday in May as a time of celebration, the 30th remains a day of commemoration. The U.S. flag code denotes half-staff flag positions until noon, when the flag should be raised to full staff. Actual Memorial Day is no time for barbecues or parties, however fun they may be. It’s a day to place wreaths or other appropriate memorabilia at the graves of fallen soldiers, or any deceased veteran. Sometimes, Memorial Day and Memorial Day Observed coincide. Tradition always defers to Memorial Day, even if convention prefers to party.

Official Beginnings

According to the Library of Congress, the first observance of Memorial Day was in 1868, at the order of John A. Logan, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army. The U.S. was still recovering from the Civil War, and graves dotted every town in the country. The pain was raw with both Confederate and Union soldiers mourned. In 1971, federal law began the observance of the first Monday in May as Memorial Day Observed. The occasion then split into two: one for annual commemoration, and one for bank closures and barbecues.

White Shoe Edict

Beginning with Memorial Day, May 30th, the White Shoe Edict goes into effect. According to Miss Manners, we can wear white shoes until Labor Day. So few traditions still adhere to actual Memorial Day; it’s a shame to see this one go away. For those who remember, it’s a symbolic gesture that we never, ever forget the sacrifice of our loved ones. It goes beyond fashion.

Sesquiscentennial

2020 marks the 156th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery. If you haven’t been, this is the year to see it. Memorial Day began with the end of the Civil War; this cemetery began just before its end. No other cemetery honors U.S. war dead the way Arlington does.

Tenth Anniversary of the WWII Memorial

2020 also marks the 16th anniversary of the WWII Memorial. While it took 59 years to be built, the last ten years have seen many an elderly veteran pay respects there. For far too long, no specific location existed to honor the amazing sacrifice of so many.

Most Americans will celebrate the beginning of summer during the last weekend in May. For a few, 2020 will be a time of remembrance, from the Civil War, to WWI, and WWII. Let them never be forgotten.