Just in case you need one or two tidbits of history to throw around at your Memorial Day cookout, here are a few things your friends might not know about this American holiday that just might impress them.
We’ve been officially celebrating Memorial Day in some form or fashion since 1868.
What else happened in 1868. Funny you should ask — I have a few things that just might be the type of trivia you’d like to share while you’re lounging in your lawn chairs. It just so happens that 1968 is the very same year we elected Ulysses S. Grant as our 18th President — oh, and it’s the same year we impeached Andrew Johnson, our 17th President, although he managed to escape conviction by a single vote after his three-day trial. (For historical perspective, in case any of your friends challenge you on this, President Obama is our 44th President.)
1968 is also the same year that William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was hired by the United States Army to serve as a scout and bison hunter. So while you’re out grilling your hot dogs, picture that first Memorial Day where our U.S. Army still fed themselves by hunting bison.
Unlike many national holidays, Memorial Day wasn’t established by the President of the United States, and it wasn’t called Memorial Day.
It was originally called Decoration Day and was established when “Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a memorial day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” And, yes, that’s a crazy-long quote that you’re never going to remember when you tell your friends, but just throw out words like ‘strewing flowers on graves’ and ‘during the rebellion’. You’ll sound eloquent.
It might be impressive to say that Mississippi was the only southern state willing to celebrate the first Memorial Day (the rest of the souther states were still pretty mad about the way things turned out with the Civil War and all). And you might sound really knowledgable if you can tell everyone that even today many states in the South still hold their own day to remember the fallen Confederate soldiers.
And if someone gets all feisty with you and starts challenging you on your facts, boggle their mind with this fact: it would still take over half a century after that first Memorial Day for New Mexico to even become a state and almost a full century for Alaska to join the U.S.
Memorial Day may look like fun, but it isn’t fun at all for a lot of people.
Ok. So this is where the facts get juicy, and you’re going to have everyone hanging on your every word.
Did you know the folks at the National Safety Council predict that 382 people will die this year during the 3-day weekend, and almost 41,000 people will get injured — all because of car accidents. Oh, and those really fun ATV’s aren’t any better. In 2012 alone, there were 14 deaths and 2750 ER visits thanks to people having too much fun on their all terrain vehicles. And if that’s not enough of a bummer to take the fun out your holiday expectations, almost 200 people visit the ER each day of Memorial Daythanks to the under-21 crowd thinking they need to get in on all that holiday drinking. And while there aren’t a lot of compiled statistics on exactly how many people get sick thanks to food poisoning, bug bites, allergic reactions, and injuries, the uptick in ER visits show more from these categories than usual.
Makes you kind of want to just stay home, hunker down, and wait it all out, doesn’t it? Fair warning — it may have this effect on your guests, too. You may have a lot of work ahead of you just convincing them it’s safe to go home.
There is actually a law passed by Congress in 2000 that requires every last one of us in the U.S. to pause at exactly 3 PM local time on Memorial Day to observe a National Moment of Remembrance.
Think about that. There is a law that mandates volley ball games pause mid-serve, dogs stop barking and children stop running around at the park, and burgers stop cooking on the grill (although that’s usually just because you forgot to fill up the grill’s propane tank). Well, at least that is what is supposed to happen. There is a law, after all. And now, thanks to this, you have plenty of interesting trivia to share with your buddies right after you all share that moment of silence at exactly 3 PM.