Memorial Day

Soldier and Veterans Saluting at Memorial Day Ceremony; Shutterstock ID 1174867879; isbnproject: 10502; title: Holiday Post-Memorial Day Update-Organic Social; line: Broad Market Campaign; invoiceadmin: Katherine Wilson

Have you ever wondered why so many American holidays are observed on Monday? Well, the answer is simple: Americans love three-day-weekends! Memorial Day is one of the many Monday holidays. Americans observe this holiday on the last Monday in May, and its purpose is to honor the brave men and women who died in military service. 

Memorial Day officially became a national holiday in 1868 by order of General John Logan. Initially, Memorial Day was a celebration in memory of soldiers who were killed in the Civil War; however, eventually, it became a celebration of honoring all Americans who died in any war.  The holiday’s original name was Decoration Day, as on this day Americans would “decorate” soldiers’ graves with flowers. 

Nowadays, the major official Memorial Day celebrations take place near Washington, D.C. At the Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the president honors dead soldiers by placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns, where the remains of unidentified soldiers lie at rest. Many Americans attend this event.

Unfortunately, over the years, the way Memorial Day is observed has changed, and some traditional celebrations have lost ground. Many Americans do not observe Memorial Day the way their grandparents did. Instead, they see this holiday as merely a day off from work or school. In order to remind Americans about the true meaning of Memorial Day, in December 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance. This resolution asks for all Americans to “voluntarily and informally” pause for a minute at 3 p.m. to pay tribute to the fallen American soldiers. 

In addition to being an important national holiday, Memorial Day also marks the unofficial beginning of the summer for Americans. It is on this day that most beaches and public swimming pools and parks open for the season. Americans like warm and sunny weather on Memorial Day. Many people go to the beach; others attend picnics and barbeques. The foods typically eaten on this day include hotdogs, hamburgers, and cold salads, such as coleslaw and potato salad. But some Americans still engage in more traditional Memorial Day activities, such as attending parades, and decorating the graves of their relatives and friends with flowers and small American flags. 


Let’s try this comprehension exercise:

  1. Memorial Day is celebrated on the first Monday in May. T / F 
  2. Memorial Day honors only the soldiers who were killed in the Civil War. T / F 
  3. The Tomb of the Unknowns is located at Arlington National Cemetery. T / F 
  4. The National Moment of Remembrance calls for Americans to pause for three minutes at 1 p. m. to pay tribute to the American soldiers who lost their lives serving their country. T /
  5. Many Americans have barbecues on Memorial Day. T /

Answer key:

1. F; 2. F; 3. T; 4. F; 5. T


Joanna Rodzen-Hickey

Joanna Rodzen-Hickey has been an ESL teacher and consultant for nearly 20 years. She has taught English at numerous universities and community colleges in New Jersey and currently teaches at the Hackettstown High School in Hackettstown, NJ.