Memorial Day was an event that started to honor Union soldiers, who had died during the American Civil War. It was a way people in the Southern states honored their dead. After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women, who died in any war or military action.
Originally Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day. It wasn't until after World War II that Decoration Day became Memorial Day which was held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week on which at that time it fell in 1968. Because of the Uniform Holidays Bill was a part of a move to use federal holidays to create three-day weekends. Which meant from 1971 on Memorial Day holiday has been officially observe on the last Monday in the month of May. This did however, take a longer period for all American States to recognize the new date.
Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.
It is traditional to fly the flag of the United States at half mast from dawn until noon. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. Memorial Day is combined with Jefferson Davis' Birthday in Mississippi.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday. All non-essential Government offices are closed, as are schools, businesses and other organizations. Most public transit systems do not run on their regular schedule. Many people see Memorial Day weekend as an opportunity to go on a short vacation or visit family or friends. This can cause some congestion on highways and at airports.