It’s important to teach kids about the real meaning of Memorial Day. Though it’s plenty of fun to get a three-day weekend, visit the pool for the first time and have the last days of school within sight, we should not forget the significance behind this special day. But do you know the true meaning of Memorial Day? Would you be able to explain it to your kids?

How Memorial Day Got its Start

The holiday got its start on May 30, 1868 when Union General John A. Logan declared the day a special occasion to decorate the graves of soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The name was changed to Memorial Day 20 years later. On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution asking the President to issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as one of peace and prayer.

In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon declared Memorial Day as a federal holiday, and since then, every last Monday in May is reserved. The day is held to honor all the men and women who have died in war and to unite Americans in prayer and peace.

Common Customs

A common custom on Memorial Day is to visit the graves of those who died in past wars, as well as visit historical war monuments. Usually, the President or Vice President will give a speech and lay a wreath on the graves of soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Most communities have their own celebrations such as parades and cookouts. VFW Halls and American Legions will also host special dinners and barbecues, bringing veterans and their families together.

In December 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed and asks that 3 p.m. local time be a time for all Americans “to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing for whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”

Start Your Own Tradition

It’s never too late to start a Memorial Day tradition, if you haven’t already. Display the American flag outside your home, visit monuments dedicated to marines, sailors and soldiers, march in a parade and participate in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. You may also fly the flag at half-staff until noon and visit the graves of those who have died in war. Of course, if you have a senior veteran in your life, celebrate their contribution to our country as well.