Memorial Day: How it began and how to celebrate it now

Memorial Day began as a very somber (quiet and thoughtful) day of remembrance, but over time it has evolved into the unofficial start of Summer with people enjoying typical summer activities for the first time in the year.

Memorial Day is held on the last Monday of May (this year May 30) and is a special holiday to honor the men and women who lost their lives serving in the United States military. Originally it was called “Decoration Day”. After the Civil War Decoration Day was a time when people would put flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers.

The first Memorial Day was held on May 30, 1868. This date was chosen because it was the time when all over the United States flowers were in bloom. This day was adopted by all the northern states; however, it wasn’t until after World War One that the southern states decided to celebrate Memorial Day on May 30 too.

In addition to flowers, small American flags are traditionally placed on soldiers’ graves. These days some families go all out and really decorate the grave of their fallen loved one.

In the late sixties, congress passed a law that saw Memorial Day moved to the last Monday of May, giving employees a 3-day weekend.

Whereas Memorial Day celebrates people who died in service to the US Military, Armed Forces Day celebrates people currently serving in the military and is not a federal holiday. Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of May and alongside Memorial Day, is part of Military Appreciation Month.

Memorial Day is usually celebrated with a military parade. Many parades and celebrations were canceled last year, so this year is going to be special! There are two main parades in New York City:

Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade
This parade starts at 11:00am at 78th Street and Third Avenue. Please check the link for more information and to see the parade route.

Little Neck Douglaston Memorial Day Parade
This parade starts at 2:00pm from Jayson Ave and Northern Boulevard. Find all the information you need on the link.

In New Jersey there are a large number of parades being held – just about every city will host their own event. You can find a list of some of them Here Check your local news media for more information on what is going on near you.

In Miami there are a few smaller parades and military ceremonies planned around the different cities, however the main celebration is called the ‘National Salute to America’s Heroes’ and includes an air and sea show on (and above and in the sea) South Beach. Check local media for times and weather conditions.

There is another federal holiday honoring soldiers – Veterans Day on November 11. This day was originally called Armistice Day and marks the end of World War One. Look out for this day later in the year.

A stand-up comedian performs his set at a New York comedy club

As the weather gets better, barbecuing becomes an important American pastime. Memorial Day weekend is considered the opening of the BBQ season, with many families holding their first cook-out of the year around that time. The most popular foods for families to cook on their grill are hotdogs and hamburgers!

Did you know that Americans eat 50 billion hamburgers per year?! American’s clearly love burgers and therefore it makes sense that there is a day honoring this food! May 28 is National Hamburger Day. Although this is not a federal holiday, it is a day where many families fire-up their grill and cook burgers!

You can buy pre-made burger patties or you can make them yourself. Usually for the full burger experience you need a bun (of course), pickles, cheese, ketchup and then if you feel like being healthy lettuce, tomatoes, or other vegetables. Did you know that 65% of Americans prefer to put cheddar cheese on their burgers?

Hotdogs are another common bbq food. They are cooked on the grill and served in a bun with ketchup or a relish or chutney of your choice. Some people add extras like pickles or onions, but the traditional hotdog is simple and delicious!


Memorial Day Weekend is now thought of as the beginning of summer. When the weather is warm enough, it is not uncommon to see people go to the beach and even swim in the ocean! There are many beaches close to Zoni campuses. In New York beaches are set to open on May 28. You can visit the beaches in Brooklyn, Coney Island or travel a little further to Long Island. Check here before you go to the beach for the most up-to-date news and beach status.

New Jersey has 130 miles of beach meaning you have many choices when it comes to choosing where to go. Visit this website for a list of New Jersey beaches and how to get there. Just like in New York, New Jersey beaches open on May 28 and will remain open during daylight hours until the end of September.

If you attend or will attend classes at our Miami Beach campus you will know that the beach is just a few minutes’ walk from our school! All of Miami’s beaches are open. If you have been waiting to take your first swim of the year, why not do it this Memorial Day Weekend? This website provides great information about Miami’s beaches

Memorial Day is an important day of remembrance for Americans, especially those who have lost loved ones. However, it has also become a happy time for people to welcome in the summer – to grill burgers or go to the beach! However you decide to celebrate Memorial Day, make sure you check online for any special restrictions or instructions and be respectful of those around you. Most of all, have a great day!


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535 8th Ave, New York, NY 10018