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5 Memorial Day Customs You Should Know

May 25th, 2018 by Sean Stephens

5 Memorial Day Customs You Should Know

Memorial Day is often confused with Veterans Day or Patriot Day. Veterans Day honors everyone who served honorably in the military, Patriot Day honors civilians who died September 11, 2001, and Memorial Day honor veterans who died in battle or sustained wounds in battle.

Now that we’ve cleared up the difference, let’s make sure you know the 5 customs associated with Memorial Day.

1. Half Staff Until Noon

Flags will begin at half-staff on Memorial Day at sunrise. At noon flags are raised to the top of the staff until sunset.

American Flag Usa GIF by US National Archives - Find & Share on GIPHY

2. Cleaning, Flower Placing, and Decorating of Servicemen Graves

Years before Memorial Day was officially observed in 1868, local springtime tributes were held for those who died in the Civil War. Reader’s Digest reports, that one of the first of these recorded tributes occurred in Columbus, Mississippi, on April 25, 1866. On this day, women decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers and placed flowers upon the bare graves of Union soldiers, all to show national unity. The cleaning, flower placing, and decorating of Servicemen graves continues today.

3. Wearing Poppies

memorial day

Wearing red artificial poppies was inspired by World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrea. The poppy wearing campaign began in Georgia in 1915 as a tribute to veterans who died.

Today, the sales of poppies continue to support the organization Veterans of Foreign Wars.

4. Driving

Some may dispute that this is a custom, but Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest travel times of the year. In fact, in 2017 almost 40 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more during Memorial Day Weekend (the Automobile Association of America).

This year it is projected that 42 million Americans will be on the road.

5. National Moment of Remembrance

In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act. It asks Americans to pause for a moment at 3 pm.

National Moment of Remembrance is followed by a number of organizations including Major League Baseball and NASCAR. Most people pause for a moment of silence at this time, but Amtrack trains blow their whistles at 3 pm.

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