Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday honors soldiers and is observed on the last Monday of May (May 30 in 2011). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union and Confederate soldiers following the American Civil War, it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars.
Memorial Day often marks the start of the summer vacation season, and Labor Day its end.
Begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the civil war, by the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family get-togethers, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 (since 1911) and the Coca-Cola 600 (since 1960) auto races. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia