Memorial Day Traditions

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May as a day to remember those who gave their lives while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The holiday was originally called Decoration Day and was established primarily to decorate the graves of those who died in the American Civil War – more American lives were lost in that war than all the previous wars combined (and in any future war for that matter). See for statistics.

Memorial Day Traditions

Various communities throughout the U.S. observed Decoration Day on different dates. The first step toward a uniform date came in 1868 when General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, selected May 30th for the observance. By 1890, all all of the Northern states officially recognized this date, but the Southern states refused to honor their dead on the same day. The holiday was not uniformly observed until after WWI when the holiday expanded to honor all Americans who had died fighting in any war. In 1971, Congress resolved to observe the holiday on the last Monday of the month of May to ensure a three day weekend for this important commemoration. You can learn more about the history of Memorial Day at

Here are some ideas for Memorial Day:

1. Start a Meaningful Tradition: I realize that our country, in large part, has come to view Memorial Day as nothing more than an extra “vacation day” — I am guilty of this myself. However, as I have learned more about the history of this day, as well as the fact that a staggering 1.8 million people have given their lives for America since 1775, I am sobered. Two popular traditions for helping to make the holiday more meaningful are (1) to visit a cemetery to place flags on the gravestones of those who died in war (see Paging to read about one mom’s trip to a cemetery with her little ones) and/or (2) to take a moment of silence at 3 pm to remember those who gave their lives for our country.

Memorial Day Cemetery Tradition Memorial Day 3 pm Tradition Moment of Silence

2. Read about Memorial Day: Learn more about Memorial Day through some of these great books for kids . . .

America’s White Table: It is a tradition in many mess halls to set a “White Table” as a symbol of remembrance to service members fallen, missing, or held captive in the line of duty. The story is about a young girl and her sisters who are asked to set a white table as a special gift to their Uncle John. The girls’ mother explains the significance of each item placed on the table.

Memorial Day: A great book on the history and meaning of Memorial Day.

The Poppy Lady: A book about Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia who worked to establish the red poppy flower as a lasting symbol to honor and remember soldiers.

The Wall: A story about a boy who travels with his father to seek out his grandfather’s name at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.

3. Watch a Video about the History of Memorial Day on YouTube:

History of Memorial Day (3:30 min): A short clip by the History Channel about the history of Memorial Day.

What Have We Learned Charlie Brown? (24 min): Charlie Brown and his gang tour Europe and learn about the world wars. In the end of the video, Linus shares the history of the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields” — this poem is credited with starting the tradition of the poppy flower as a symbol of Memorial Day. If you prefer, you can just watch the Flanders Field excerpt (3 min) on YouTube.

4. Watch a Memorial Day Speech on YouTube:

Ronald Reagan Memorial Day Speech: A moving speech about the heroes of our country.

Ronald Reagan Normandy Speech: This famous speech was delivered in Normandy on the 40th anniversary of D-day. It is a beautiful tribute to all who have given their lives for their country.

5. Listen to our Memorial Day Playlist on YouTube.

6. Make Patriotic Food for Memorial Day: You can find hundreds of patriotic recipe ideas on our July 4th Recipes page.

Patriotic Recipes for Memorial Day

7. Make a Poppy Flower Craft: Did you know that the poppy flower is called the “flower of remembrance” and has become an emblem for Memorial Day? Its red color reminds us of the blood that was spilled by those who have fought for our country. Interestingly, though there are many varieties of poppies, some have the distinct shape of a cross inside.

Memorial Day Poppy Flower 1 Memorial Day Poppy Flower 2
Image Source: Wikimedia Image Source: Amazon

Here is a collection of poppy crafts by Crafty Morning to make with kids:

Poppy Flower Crafts for Memorial Day8. Make a Patriotic Craft: You can find dozens of patriotic crafts on our July 4th Crafts page. Or, you can click on the image below to link directly to Flag Craft ideas.

Patriotic Flag Crafts for Memorial Day9. Color Memorial Day Pages: You can print coloring pages from Google that depict images of Memorial Day. You can click one of my two favorite images below to link directly to the image.

Memorial Day Coloring Page 1 Memorial Day Coloring Page 2

10. Make Memorial Day a Teaching Opportunity: You can find some great Memorial Day worksheets via Google, and there are a number of FREE activity packs on Teachers Pay Teachers. Also, there is a great list of Memorial Day resources at Free Homeschool Deals. I particularly like the unit studies by Living Books, called “Holiday Helpers” (see below image).

Memorial Day Unit StudyFor more ideas, check out my Memorial Day page on Pinterest.

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