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Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a national day of remembrance to honor military veterans who have died in service to the United States during peace and war. Since 1971, Memorial Day has been observed as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May each year.

Memorial Day’s origins date back to the U.S. Civil War, when Americans began holding tributes each spring during the late 1860s, placing red poppies and wildflowers on the graves of fallen soldiers who had been killed in battle. General John A. Logan, a leader of Northern Civil War veterans, designated May 30, 1868, as the first official Decoration Day to commemorate soldiers’ sacrifices.

Today, Memorial Day honors more than 1 million men and women who have died in military service since the Civil War began in 1861. It is celebrated as a three-day weekend with modern-day traditions that include a National Moment of Remembrance, the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, and numerous memorial services, parades, and speeches taking place nationwide.