Memorial-Day-BBQWhen is Memorial Day 2013? It’s Monday, May 27, and it’s on that day that Americans from coast to coast will honor those brave men and women who have fought and died protecting our freedoms while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Originally called Decoration Day and established shortly after the Civil War, Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May, and in 2014, we’ll mark this important occasion on May 26. Memorial Day is similar in spirit but fundamentally different from Veterans Day, which honors those who have served and are still with us—and therefore able to accept our thank-yous face to face.

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When we celebrate Memorial Day on May 27, 2013, it will mark the unofficial start of the summer season. Traditionally, Americans spend Memorial Day decorating the gravestones of friends and relatives who have given their lives for the nation. That practice dates back to at least the 1860s, and as with many holidays, there’s some debate regarding where and when Memorial Day began. While President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the birthplace of the holiday in 1966, women’s groups are thought to have decorated the tombstones of Southern soldiers before the Civil War’s conclusion. Regardless, it became an official remembrance on May 5, 1868, when General John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a general order establishing the day’s creation.

Like many holidays, Memorial Day has changed—and become somewhat commercialized—over time, and the three-day weekend is now an occasion for having outdoor barbecues and scoring good deals at the local mall. “Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years,” states MemorialDay.org. “Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades.”

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