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Memorial Day in the United States

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day and commemorates all men and women who have died in military service for the United States. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day and it is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season.

Arlington National Cemetary.
Arlington National Cemetary.

What Do People Do?

It is traditional to fly the flag of the United States at half staff 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 has become less of an occasion of remembrance. Many people choose to hold picnics, sports events and family gatherings on this weekend. This day is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season for cultural events. For the fashion conscious, it is seen as acceptable to wear white clothing, particularly shoes from Memorial Day until Labor Day. However, fewer and fewer people follow this rule and many wear white clothing throughout the year.

Public Life

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.


Memorial Day started as an event to honor Union soldiers who had died during the American Civil War. It was inspired by the 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.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. The current name for this day did not come into use until after World War II. Decoration Day and then Memorial Day used to be held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week, on which it fell. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed as part of a move to use federal holidays to create three-day weekends. This meant that that, from 1971, Memorial Day holiday has been officially observed on the last Monday in May. However, it took a longer period for all American states to recognize the new date.

Memorial Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere It is Observed
MonMay 312010Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 302011Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 282012Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 272013Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 262014Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 252015Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 302016Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 292017Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 282018Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 272019Memorial DayFederal Holiday 
MonMay 252020Memorial DayFederal Holiday 

Quick Facts

Memorial Day commemorates all Americans who have died in military service for the United States.

Memorial Day 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2018

Monday, May 28, 2018


Name in other languages

Memorial DayEnglish
Día ConmemorativoSpanish
יום הזיכרון (ארצות הברית)Hebrew
يوم الذكرىArabic
메모리얼 데이Korean
Gedenktag (Memorial Day)German

List of dates for other years

Related holidays

Other holidays in May 2017 in the United States

United Nation Holiday on May 29, 2017

Fun Holiday on May 29, 2017

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