A Brief History of Memorial Day

american flag with flowers for memorial day

Thank Our Military for Your Continuing Freedom


In 2020, Memorial Day is Monday, May 25. Although the national holiday may be a little different this year because of social distancing practices, the day will still carry the same heavy meaning as it has every year since it was established. 

At My Hero Crate, we celebrate the soldiers deployed, living on military bases, and everywhere else, working diligently to protect our country. But we would be mistaken to not acknowledge those who gave their lives for us. Memorial Day is the one day set aside every year to do that — but we’re truly thankful every day.



The Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, sometimes called Decoration Day, is observed in honor of the men and women who died while serving in the armed forces of the United States of America. We are literally memorializing the military members who made the ultimate sacrifice, no matter what branch they were in: Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, or National Guard. It’s a day to reflect on and remember why we are free to live as we do in this country.

Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day, celebrated on November 11 every year. Veterans Day is a time to thank and honor all military members who served, including those who came home alive. Veterans Day also acknowledges those soldiers who served during peacetime and did not see combat during their tenure. 



The First Memorial Day

It seems there is no official documentation of the first Memorial Day, but the custom of honoring fallen heroes is a worldwide tradition extending through history. Some say the day was first officially acknowledged in America after the Civil War, but there are records that show regions and countries honoring their service members prior to that. 


Regardless, Memorial Day became a national holiday in the United States in 1971, by an act of Congress. Americans celebrate it every year on the final Monday of May.



Memorial Day Activities


Traditionally, on Memorial Day in the United States, people visit cemeteries and memorials to place flowers and other mementos on the graves of their ancestors, particularly those who served in the military. At national cemeteries, like Arlington, volunteers place American flags on each grave.

Some families use Memorial Day as a time to get together with their loved ones, to barbecue, and relax. The day is often thought of as the unofficial start to the summer season, although the first day of summer isn’t until June.



Memorial Day Symbolism

You might remember seeing poppy flowers worn on lapels on Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day. There are historical and literary reasons for this. 


When the European ground was disturbed on the battlefields during World War I, poppy flowers began growing and blooming. The iconic red poppy was described in the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by a Canadian soldier, John McCrae, in 1915. 


The flower came up in another poem, this one written by Moina Michael in 1918, called “We Shall Keep the Faith.” Americans drew inspiration from these references and began to wear a red poppy in remembrance of those killed in World War I. 


Since then, the poppy has become a symbol to memorialize all veterans of any war, and quickly spread to Canada, Australia, and Great Britain, among other allies.


What You Can Do on Memorial Day

If you want to properly thank America’s fallen soldiers for their service, you can:


  • Participate in the national moment of silence at 3 p.m., whatever your time zone may be.

  • Volunteer to decorate the graves of soldiers at your local military cemetery or a national cemetery, if you live close-by.

  • Lay flowers on the graves of your veteran family members.

  • Donate to organizations that help injured service members or families of soldiers who lost their lives in battle.



How My Hero Crate Honors Veterans

My Hero Crate curates snack gift baskets designed for families to send to their loved ones in the military. Each care package is full of treats both made in America and distributed by American companies. For every purchase made, we donated to a non-profit veteran-backed organization. Visit our website to see the organization we’ve selected this month, and to shop our care packages.