Memorial Day is upon us in the Hamptons, an American tradition honoring our military and the freedoms for which they have fought and died. We all know that there will be parades and family barbecues and probably a little bit of East End traffic, but did you know…
•Memorial Day is technically not a national holiday. Every state has established it as a holiday, but since each state individually had the power to determine whether or not it should be celebrated, it is not a “national holiday.”
•New York was the first state to make Memorial Day a legal holiday, in 1873. Most of the Northern states followed this lead over the next 20 years, but the Southern states were more hesitant, since the holiday originally honored the deaths of the Union soldiers. It was not until after World War I that the Southern states declared Memorial Day as a holiday, when the purpose had been broadened to include the deaths of those who fought in all of the country’s wars.
•There is also a Confederate Memorial Day, in which nine Southern states honor the Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. The states that observe Confederate Memorial Day choose their own day for celebration—with only Virginia selecting the same day as Memorial Day.
•Memorial Day is the second most popular day for Americans to fire up the grill, trailing July 4th but ahead of Labor Day.
•The artificial red poppies you see being worn on Memorial Day are “Buddy Poppies,” inspired by Lt. Colonel John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” and named for “buddies who never came back.” The first VFW artificial poppy factory was established in 1924 in Pittsburgh to help wounded and unemployed veterans who needed jobs.
•Memorial Day was originally named Decoration Day, due to people’s following the practice of decorating graves with flowers and flags.
•The National Moment of Remembrance established by Congress requests that all Americans pause at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Memorial Day for one minute to honor those who have died in service to the nation and to signify an act of national unity. Some remember in silence—as 500,000 fans at Major League Baseball parks will do—while others make a little more noise—like the 200 Amtrak trains that will all sound their whistles across the country at 3 p.m.
•In 2000, a poll revealed that only 28% of Americans knew the true meaning of Memorial Day. Small surprise considering the most common answer to the question “What is Memorial Day?” was “The day the pool opens.”
•In 1968, Congress changed Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend.
•One of the longest standing Memorial Day traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held on Memorial Day Weekend since 1911. At speeds of 200 mph, it’s kind of like driving on Montauk Highway this weekend.
A happy Memorial Day to all!