May 27th, 2021 | Miller Advisors

Memorial Day; so much more than a three-day weekend

While Memorial Day weekend is often the perfect time to take a short trip or kick off the start of summer with friends and family, it’s also much more than a day off. It’s one in which we remember and honor fallen soldiers who’ve sacrificed their lives to fight for our country and freedoms.


The Civil War ended in the spring of 1865 when Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse on April 9. Over 620,000 soldiers died in the four-year conflict. Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (an organization of Union veterans) would eventually select May 30, 1868 as a day to pay tribute to the fallen:

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land…”

Logan apparently chose May 30 because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. States passed proclamations, and the Army and Navy adopted rules for proper observance at their facilities.

The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave – a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.

The May 30 date held for decades. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change took place in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Many also use the occasion to remember family members who’ve passed, whether military or not. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time, and some lower their flags to half staff from dawn until noon.

However you spend the holiday – taking place this year on Monday, May 31, we hope you are able to enjoy it with family and friends either in-person or virtually. And if you have served in the military, we thank you for your service and the sacrifices you’ve made to defend our country.

Yes, Memorial Day has come to signify the “unofficial” start of summer, but let’s remember the heroes who made it all possible.

A reminder: the financial markets and our office will be closed to observe Memorial Day, May 31, 2021. Should you find it necessary, you can access your accounts using Raymond James Client Access any time. We’ll reopen Tuesday, June 1.

Article Sources: Raymond James
Photo Source: iStock