the United States, Memorial Day, which occurs each year on the last
Monday of May, represents a holiday in which we recognize the sacrifice
of our fallen military service members. In early rural America, the
custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating
graves was usually performed in late summer and was often an occasion
for family reunions and picnics. After the Civil War, America's need
for a secular, patriotic ceremony to honor its military dead became
prominent, as ceremonies centering on the decoration of soldiers'
graves were held in towns and cities throughout the nation.