Ah, three-day weekends. We all live for them.

Memorial Day weekend is a grand and glorious three-day respite from work and is the unofficial kick-off to the summer season. It is also the traditional one-third mark of the Major League Baseball season, and – somehow – not even all that close to the end of the basketball season.

However, Memorial Day has a purpose far above a trip to the lake or a family badminton match. It is a day to honor those who died while serving the U.S. military and to decorate flags and flowers on their graves. Many individuals still refer to it as Decoration Day, an older term for the tradition. In some communities, Decoration Day might be celebrated on a different weekend from Memorial Day. But whether it’s Memorial Day or Decoration Day, many families visit several community cemeteries to pay respects to dearly departed friends and family, and, of course, to visit with everyone else who is cemetery-hopping.

Of course, you don’t need a lecture from me about what Memorial Day is. You knew that already.

Some facts about Memorial Day:

–Memorial Day was born out of a tradition originally intended to honor those who died in the Civil War. According to history.com, Waterloo, New York, celebrated the day on May 5, 1866, and 100 years later the federal government declared the town as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Other communities, however, have claimed to be the birthplace of Memorial Day.

–On May 30, 1868, Gen. James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. (Also from history.com)

–In 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.

–According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, services to honor those who died in war go back to the Peloponnesian War, fought during the fifth century B.C.

– More than 1.3 million members of the U.S. military have died in service to the country. (In case you are wondering, that includes Confederate deaths.)

– The National Moment of Remembrance, adopted in 2000, encourages Americans to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day for a moment of silence for those who died in service to the United States of America. So remember, whatever you are doing on Memorial Day, take a moment at 3 p.m. to remember those 1.3 million Americans who never came home.

After all, it really is their day.

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