The Meaning of Memorial Day: What It Is and How To Use It

What is Memorial Day, and why do Americans celebrate this holiday? This article details the origin of this holiday and the meaning of Memorial Day.

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Memorial Day celebrations often include trips to the beach, a three-day weekend vacation, picnics, and barbecues. While this holiday is a fun summer celebration, it has a storied history about soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country. Keep reading to learn about this national moment of remembrance.

What Does Memorial Day Mean?

Memorial Day is a national holiday which celebrates the lives of people who died during their service in the United States Military. To celebrate this holiday, the families and friends of those who passed away will visit the cemeteries and graves of other soldiers, fly flags at half mast, and participate in parades. Often, living soldiers will visit the graves of comrades. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May.

What Is the Origin of Memorial Day?

Memorial Day was initially called Decoration Day and began shortly after the Civil War. This holiday was first observed in 1868 to commemorate the lives of soldiers who had died in the Civil War. It was conceptualized by Gen. John A. Logan, a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. The GAR was an organization composed of former Union soldiers and sailors.

During the first celebration, James Garfield — an Ohio Congressman at the time — made a speech and helped the participants decorate the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers. 

Following this event, there were celebrations in different states such as Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. However, New York was the first state to make Memorial Day a state holiday. To this day, Waterloo, NY is known as the Official Birthplace of Memorial Day. 

After the first world war, Memorial Day became a national holiday. In 1971, it began being celebrated on last Monday of May, thanks to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. However, many southern states also choose to celebrate a state holiday for Confederate Memorial Day. Federally, commemorations occur at Arlington National Cemetery.

What Are Translations of Memorial Day?

While Memorial Day is an exclusively American holiday, this does not mean that knowing translations of this holiday is pointless. There are many situations in which knowing how to refer to Memorial Day in other languages can be very helpful. 

If you are discussing why you might have a day off with a person from another country or a person who does not speak English, it is helpful to study this list of translations of Memorial Day. 

  • Swedish: minnesdag
  • Icelandic: Memorial Day.
  • Thai: วันแห่งความทรงจำ
  • Vietnamese: ngày kỷ niệm
  • Italian: giorno della Memoria
  • Urdu: یوم یادگار
  • Norwegian: minnedag
  • Malayalam: അനുസ്മരണാ ദിനം
  • Kannada: ಸ್ಮರಣಾರ್ಥ ದಿನ
  • Turkish: Anma Günü
  • Arabic: يوم الذكرى
  • Lithuanian: atminimo diena
  • Slovak: pamätný deň
  • Marathi: स्मरण दिवस
  • Finnish: muistopäivä
  • Ukrainian: день пам’яті
  • Hindi: यादगार दिन
  • Portuguese (Portugal): dia Memorial
  • Malay: hari peringatan
  • Swahili: siku ya kumbukumbu
  • Filipino: Araw ng Alaala
  • Polish: dzień Pamięci
  • Gujarati: મેમોરિયલ ડે
  • Welsh: Dydd Cofio
  • Latvian: piemiņas diena
  • Croatian: dan sjećanja
  • Slovenian: dan spomina
  • German: Gedenktag
  • Indonesian: hari peringatan
  • Bulgarian: паметен ден
  • Bengali: মেমোরিয়াল ডে
  • Amharic: የመታሰቢያ ቀን
  • Danish: Memorial Day.
  • Portuguese (Brazil): dia Memorial
  • Hebrew: יום הזיכרון
  • Tamil: நினைவு நாள்
  • French: Jour de la commémoration
  • Czech: vzpomínkový den
  • Spanish: Día Conmemorativo
  • Japanese: 記念日
  • Romanian: zi memoriala
  • Basque: Memorial eguna
  • Estonian: mälestuspäev
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 紀念日
  • Hungarian: emléknap
  • Serbian: Дан помена погинулих
  • Telugu: జ్ఞాపకార్ధ దినము
  • Catalan: Dia Commemoratiu
  • Chinese (PRC): 纪念日
  • Korean: 기념일
  • Greek: Ημέρα Μνήμης
  • Dutch: herdenkingsdag
  • Russian: день памяти

What Are Other American Federal Holidays?

There are many national holidays that federal employees receive as days off. Often, other businesses will close and give their employees the day off, too. However, other businesses like restaurants, grocery stores, and shopping malls might still be open. 

This list from Federal Pay details what these holidays are and when they will land in 2022. What is your favorite holiday, and does the place that you work or go to school close on these holidays?

  • New Year’s Day – Friday – December 31st, 2021
  • Thanksgiving Day – Thursday – November 24th, 2022
  • Juneteenth Independence Day – Monday – June 20th, 2022
  • Christmas Day – Monday – December 26th, 2022
  • Independence Day – Monday – July 4th, 2022
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Monday – January 17th, 2022
  • Memorial Day – Monday – May 30th, 2022
  • Washington’s Birthday – Monday – February 21st, 2022
  • Columbus Day – Monday – October 10th, 2022
  • Labor Day – Monday – September 5th, 2022
  • Veterans Day – Friday – November 11th, 2022


Memorial Day is an important holiday to many Americans. Whether a person is a former or current soldier who has lost a comrade in battle, a family member of a soldier, or an American citizen who wants to celebrate the lives of the people who have fought for the country’s freedom, this holiday is very meaningful.

Memorial Day is always celebrated on the last Monday in May. During this time, all federal and state employees as well as the employees of numerous other businesses receive a three-day weekend. Other businesses may choose not to close. 

Other ways that people celebrate Memorial Day include visiting gravesites and cemeteries, participating in parades, or telling stories about the people they have lost.


  1. Memorial day Definition & Meaning | 
  2. Memorial Day | Definition, History, & Facts | Britannica 
  3. List of the Federal Holidays in 2022 and 2023 | Federal Pay