The origins of the holiday have been debated throughout much of our nation's history, but we all recognize Memorial Day as a time to honor our war dead and as the unofficial kickoff of the summer season.
Originally called Decoration Day, it is believed to have been started by Southern women who, following the Civil War, designated a day to decorate the graves of Confederate Soldiers.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873.
By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states, but the South refused to acknowledge the day and continued honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I. After that war, the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died serving in any conflict. In 1971, Congress officially designated it as a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
And while many seem to have forgotten the true meaning of the holiday, in Columbiana County, nearly every town, no matter how small, marks the day with parades, services at cemeteries and the decoration of veterans' graves regardless of whether they died in service to our country or of other causes. Many people also take advantage of the day to place flowers on the graves of loved ones even if they were not veterans.
It is important, however, to recognize this as a holiday which celebrates our freedom by honoring those who died to preserve it. Take some time out from your picnics and other festivities this Memorial Day to attend one of our local commemorative ceremonies and fly your flag proudly in recognition of this great nation we call home.