ELMIRA, NY (WETM) – When people think of Memorial Day, many things pop into their heads, the unofficial start of summer, warmer weather, almost time for school to be out, or in many places, school is out. Many of the ideas that come to mind are happy, pleasant, and enjoyable. However, for many who know the meaning and the purpose of Memorial Day, it is more serious than happy.

The holiday known as Memorial Day in the United States is a holiday to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day is frequently confused with Veterans Day and July 4th as to who it is set to remember.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for the ones who are no longer with us, it is not a day to recognize veterans or current members of the military for their service. While every day we should be grateful to the men and women who have and continue to defend our freedoms. This year Memorial Day occurs on Monday, May 30th.

Memorial Day in the United States is a federal holiday which is for the purpose of mourning the U.S. military personnel that have paid the ultimate price while serving in the United States armed forces, so we can have all the things that were mentioned above. It is observed on the last Monday of May each year.

The holiday was originally known as decoration day and originated following the Civil War, and eventually became a federal holiday in 1971. It was called decoration day due to the tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, flags, and reciting prayers.

Many Americans observe Memorial Day by remembering the fallen by visiting cemeteries, holding memorial services, including parades, or having family gatherings. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because Memorial Day weekend—the long weekend comprising the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day itself—unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

Where did it start?

It is unclear where exactly this tradition began; many different communities may have independently held memorial gatherings. According to History.com, some records show that one of the earliest Memorial Day commemorations was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. The Department of Veteran Affairs also reveals other cities that claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Macon, Columbus, Georgia, Richmond, Virginia, and Boalsburg, PA. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say that earlier observances, were either informal, not community-wide, or one-time events.

Waterloo, which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866, was chosen by Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 as the birthplace of Memorial Day because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30. But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.