Memorial Day

When is it celebrated?

It is celebrated on the last Monday of May.

Who celebrates it?

It is celebrated in the United States.

Where does it originate from?

There are varying ideas on where and when Memorial Day originated.  Most of them are centered around the American Civil War. The war claimed the most casualties of any war the US has ever been in, and began the practice of having national cemeteries.  Many of the first Memorial Days were celebrated in the South, because that is where most of the fighting was done. Some places in the South still have a Confederate Memorial Day, in addition to Memorial Day.

Three years after the Civil War, Decoration Day was observed to celebrate the lives lost in the war.  It was started as a day of remembrance to honor the deceased by decorating their graves with flowers. After WWI, Decoration Day, which had evolved into Memorial Day, began including all American veterans who have died while in service.  It officially became a federal holiday in 1971.


  • Every year at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, there is a ceremony and flags are placed by each grave.
  • Attending parades and memorials
  • Visiting cemeteries
  • Spending the day with family
  • Symbols: the American flag, the colors red, white, and blue


Get updates on what’s happening here at RAL.

Curriculum Packets

Find the perfect story and the activities to match.