MEANING & HISTORY
Memorial Day Traditions
Every Memorial Day, families and communities across the nation take time to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. Americans observe this special holiday in many different ways such as those listed below.
Share your Memorial Day traditions and read those of others!
Displaying the Flag — On Memorial Day, the U.S. flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon. In the morning, the flag should be raised momentarily to the top, then lowered to half-staff. Americans can also honor prisoners of war and those missing in action by flying the POW/MIA flag.
Visiting Gravesites — Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time to honor the nation’s dead by decorating their graves with flowers. Many Americans make special flower arrangements and deliver them as a family to gravesites of their loved ones and ancestors.
Family and American History — Memorial Day is a favorite time for Americans to read their family history, look at old photographs and learn about their ancestors; especially those who died in the line of battle. It’s also an occasion for reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and other historic and patriotic speeches by Presidents and leaders of the Armed Services.
National Moment of Remembrance — In accordance with a congressional resolution passed in 2000, Americans pause wherever they are at 3 pm local time for a moment of silence to remember and honor the fallen.
Experience the National Memorials — Memorial Day can also be an opportunity to visit or read about the national memorials in Washington, DC and others around the country.
Memorial Day Parades — The Memorial Day parade is a time-honored tradition in cities and towns across America, where neighbors come together to remember with pride those who sacrificed so much for our country.
Memorial Day Poppies — The tradition of red poppies on Memorial Day was inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields ” by John McCrea. Seeing the poem and its colorful illustration in a magazine, Georgia teacher and volunteer war worker to Moina Michael made a personal pledge always wear red silk poppies as an emblem for “keeping the faith with all who died.” She also began a campaign to make the poppy a universal symbol of tribute and support for veterans. Through her efforts, the idea was adopted in the United States and spread to England, France, Australia and more than 50 other countries.