No matter where you are in the world, you and your family are probably already making plans to celebrate Memorial Day. From BBQs to family time there are so many ways to spend the holiday.
There’s a good chance your post has some activities planned, such as participating in the National Moment of Remembrance. While the President or Vice President lay a wreath on soldiers' graves in Arlington National Cemetery each Memorial Day, he’ll also issue a Presidential Proclamation and Prayer for Peace at 3 p.m. local time. You can read the Prayer for Peace online with your children and then try out one of these Memorial Day crafts to get your kids in the patriotic spirit.
History of Memorial Day
Today, Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May; it honors all the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. The holiday got its start in the years following the Civil War and was originally known as Decoration Day.
After the Civil War, which claimed an estimated 500,00 lives—more than any conflict in our nation’s history—Americans began holding springtime memorials for the fallen soldiers. Their tributes included decorating the graves of soldiers and reciting prayers.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, called for a nationwide day of remembrance; this would later be known as Decoration Day. He declared, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.”
The first Decoration Day was celebrated with a speech from General James Garfield at Arlington National Cemetery. More than 5,000 people gathered and decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington.
By 1890, most Northern states had made Decoration Day, an official holiday. However, Southern states, honored their soldiers on different days. It wasn’t until after World War I that the United States moved from honoring just the soldiers of the Civil War to honoring the military personnel who died in all wars.
In 1968, nearly a century after the holiday was first introduced, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, rather than May 30, giving federal employees a three-day weekend. You might even say that it also cemented the holiday as the unofficial start to summer, mixing the day of observance and reflection with lighthearted fun.
Memorial Day Craft Ideas
These crafts can be completed by kids of all ages but feel free to modify the steps to fit your child’s capabilities.
Patriotic Jar Candle
Your child can get creative with this craft! There are several ways to make this Memorial Day jar candle. They can paint on a design or roll it in embellishments to make it their own!
Red, White, and Blue Parfait
This “craft” also offers several iterations. You can make it as healthy as you want it and allow your kids to choose their favorite fruits to add to it.
Stars and Stripes Kite
You can make this as a kite and let your kid try and get it airborne, or make it into a pennant and use it to decorate your home or kid’s room.
How are you spending Memorial Day this year? Share your plans in the comments below! And if you make any of these crafts, share photos of your kids’ finished product with me on Facebook or tag U.S. History Abroad on Instagram.