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A History of Memorial Day 

This weekend we will be observing the Memorial Day weekend. It is the weekend that generally ushers in the summer season with picnics and other festivities, though that might be adjusted some due to Covid-19, but many have forgotten what Memorial Day’s true meaning is. It is important to recall its history and why it

This weekend we will be observing the Memorial Day weekend. It is the weekend that generally ushers in the summer season with picnics and other festivities, though that might be adjusted some due to Covid-19, but many have forgotten what Memorial Day’s true meaning is. It is important to recall its history and why it exists. 

According to a website devoted to Memorial Day, There is evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead”

At least 12 northern cities claim that that the holiday originated in their towns, including nearby Boalsburg.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 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. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead-on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). 

The “Lycoming Gazette” in its May 18, 1868 edition, reported on General Logan’s General Order for a Memorial Day. That was the first mention of the soon to be holiday locally.

The day was also called “Decoration Day for many years and was usually observed on May 30. This probably ended with a law passed by Congress in 1971 that designated Memorial Day as being observed on the last Monday in May to ensure a three-day weekend.

Several southern states have their own separated dates to honor the Confederate war dead. Texas does so January 19. Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Georgia on April 26, South Carolina on may 10 and Louisiana and Tennessee on June 3.

Legislation was introduced in 2000 that would change the holiday back to the traditional May 30 date but that is still languishing in the halls of Congress.

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