Memorial Day: The History

Special guests including the U.S. Secretary of State celebrate Memorial Day in Montclair. Read on for the holiday's history and our community's tribute.

Join the Montclair community at Edgemont Memorial Park on for Memorial Day.

Memorial Day sign
© Leslie Banks | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Monday, May 25 is Memorial Day. In honor of, we’ve decided to revisit the history of the holiday and how it came to be. The annual event, which now is celebrated with barbeques and trips to the Jersey shore, began way back in 1866 in what is said to have originated in Waterloo, N.Y. There has been much suspicion, though, in regards to the city in which the holiday began, but President Lyndon Johnson crowned Waterloo, N.Y. with the honor. The President chose to do so because over 25 cities claimed to be the proud starters of Memorial Day.

The holiday spread first in the Northern states, pioneered by General John A. Logan, before developing throughout the south after World War I. In 1866, however, the people honored vets and military men by decorating the graves of those that fought for the country as well as decorating the town and homes. In fact, Memorial Day was first coined Decoration Day. “On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery,” according to More than 5,000 people were in attendance and helped to decorate the graves of at least 20,000 soldiers. The decorations seem not too far fetch from our celebrations in 2015.

We recognize Memorial Day to fill the last Monday of May, but that was not always the case. Up until 1968, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30. However, by the year 1971, Congress declared the holiday be held on the last Monday of May instead, in an effort to provide federal employees with a three-day weekend. Good idea, Congress! This change officially named Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Every year, Montclair celebrates Memorial Day with special honor, aside from everyone’s planned parties. This year the event is held in Edgemont Memorial Park at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 25. Many special guests will be celebrated as well as speak during the ceremonies. Of course, Mayor Robert Jackson will be in attendance, as well as the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and the prized, former Air Force major William Horn. Members across the Montclair community will be involved, such as the Montclair Boy Scout Troop #12, Police and Fire officials, and the National Anthem will be sung by a Montclair high school student. The Montclair Community Band will also be providing great patriotic tunes fit for the day. A number of veterans will be in attendance, as well. This annual event is a great start to your Memorial Day celebrations.

For more information about the Memorial Day tribute, visit

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