Memorial Day began in the 19th century as “Decoration Day.” Citizens were urged to decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War I, Decoration Day expanded to include ceremonies honoring the dead in all of America’s wars.
Decoration Day officially became Memorial Day in 1967. The following year, the Uniform Holidays Act established it as one of three holidays (including Veteran’s Day and George Washington’s birthday, now called President’s Day) celebrated on a Monday to create a convenient three-day weekend. Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday in May.