The origins of Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, provide an apt starting point for any trivia game. Americans first observed the day on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, three years after the Civil War ended. After World War I, Americans observed the day in honor of men and women who died in service to the country in all wars. Knowing facts lets you develop questions for a trivia game or become an expert on the day.
Unofficial Memorial Day events happened even earlier than the official proclamation of Decoration Day, when, in 1866, women decorated the graves of soldiers from both the North and the South who died at the battle of Shiloh. Other cities also claimed to have had the first observances, but in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson designated Waterloo, New York, as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1971, Congress declared the national holiday and changed the date for the holiday to the last Monday in May.
Memorial Day Observance
When Maj. Gen. John Logan, who led the Grand Army of the Republic, a group of Union veterans, declared May 30 as Memorial Day in 1868, he also asked people to decorate the graves of those who died in the war. Some historians believe he chose May as the month for the holiday because spring flowers would be in bloom, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today, on the last Monday in May, American flags decorate graves and private yards. In 2000, Congress created the National Moment of Remembrance, asking everyone to observe a moment of silent remembrance at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day.
When Memorial Day's concept included all wars, Americans began wearing paper, red poppies to remember those who died in World War I -- red poppies being the flower that spread naturally over Flanders Field in Belgium and France, the site of one of the most destructive battles of the war.
Memorial Day Songs
Patriotic songs feature prominently on Memorial Day -- see how many songs your trivia game players identify. Include traditional standbys as well as less common songs such as Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," "Yankee Doodle" from the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War tune "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again." Be sure to include taps, which originally signaled lights out for soldiers in the British army in the late 1800s, but is a staple today at memorial services for military members and veterans.