By Brooks Franciotti

20 Things You Didn't Know About Memorial Day and Memorial Day Bracelets

Memorial Day is a popular holiday here in the States, particularly because of its association with start of the summer season, a wave of shopping sales, and the three-day weekend many of us enjoy thanks to its status as a federal holiday.

But what are the origins of Memorial Day? And how should we actually celebrate it?

 When was Memorial Day started and why?

Memorial Day as a holiday has several historical precedents and origins in small town spread across the United States, but grew in national awareness, respect and observance following the Civil War. Many small towns arranged days of remembrance for their war dead and this burgeoning tradition grew over the years until it became regular practice nationwide.

 Why did Memorial Day emerge after the Civil War?

Organized days of remembrance for fallen soldiers were common during the Civil War (1861-1865), but grew in frequency after the end of the war and the assassination of president Abraham Lincoln in 1865. A combination of efforts led by women, as well as the creation of the United States National Cemetery System, led to Memorial Day as we know it now beginning to take shape as a recognized national holiday. [1]

Photo of a Union soldier hat and buckle

 Who founded Memorial Day?

As the origins of Memorial Day are varied, there are many individuals who played a role in the creation of the holiday. However, the general consensus is that the holiday has its modern origins with the issuing of General Order No. 11 on March 3rd, 1868 by United States Army General John A. Logan. This order called for a national day or remembrance dedicated to soldiers who died during the Civil War. [1]

 What President made Memorial Day a Holiday?

In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which formalized the holiday's status. The act was signed into law by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson once the bill reached his desk, and the bill officially went into effect in 1971. [2]

Photo of a man signing a bill

 Why did Memorial Day not become the holiday's name until 1967?

The holiday we know as Memorial Day was often also called Decoration Day, a name dating back to the 19th century. The two names were largely interchangeable until the federal government began to prefer using the Memorial Day name on official documents around 1967. After this, the Decoration Day Name began to see less use and Memorial Day became the de facto term for the holiday.

Photo of military gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery with American flags on each one

 Why is Memorial Day always on a Monday?

Memorial Day is always on a Monday because of a 1968 congressional act, which outlined the rules for observing the holiday. One of those rules was especially written as a way to create a 3-day weekend for federal employees by ensuring the holiday always occurs on a Monday.

 What are the possible dates for Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is always on the last Monday in May, which means the holiday can only fall between May 25th through the 31st.

Photo of a daily calendar showing May 27th

 Are Memorial Day and Veterans Day the same?

No, Veterans Day is a seperate federal holiday commemorated later in the year. Each November 11, that particular holiday was originally used to mark the end of World War I and honor that war's dead. Today, Veterans Day honors all veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who have died in military service.

 Do you thank a Veteran on Memorial Day?

Thanking veterans is not common practice on Memorial Day, as the holiday is meant to honor the memory of those who have fallen. It's more appropriate to give thanks and tribute to veterans on Veterans Day or other days of the year.

Photo of three military veterans saluting

 How do people honor Memorial Day?

Common practices for honoring Memorial Day include many families visiting gravesites and cemeteries of military dead and placing flags and flowers on the graves. Typically, millions of people will also observe a moment of silence at 3:00 PM local time to remember those fallen.

 Is it ok to say "Happy Memorial Day"?

"Happy Memorial Day" isn't considered bad taste, but it's important to note and take the meaning of the holiday into consideration when saying it. Memorial Day is meant as a time for peace and reflection, and for some Americans the holiday can be a painful one as they remember friends and family lost in war.

Photo of a military style shirt with an American flag lapel pin

 Is Memorial Day only for fallen soldiers?

Yes, Memorial Day is meant as a day to remember those lost during military service.

 What are black bracelets for in the military?

It's become common for those who have served in the military to wear a black wristband commemorating friends or family members from their units that have been killed in action. This small token is a physical remembrance of that person.

Example of a military memorial band

These bracelets often list the fallen soldier's name, rank, and KIA (killed in action) date, alongside symbols such as rank insignia, unit symbols or American flags. These designs are often unique and personal to the wearer and the service member being honored and may also include in-jokes or other sayings. 

For more info on KIA bands, click here to read the KIA entry of our "47 Popular Wristbands With A Message From Actual Order Data" blog.

 What are some Memorial Day bracelet ideas?

Creating a Memorial Day bracelet design is entirely up to the creativity of the designer. Common designs might include sayings such as "Honor the Fallen" or "Always Remember" engraved on a red, white, blue, or black rubber wrist band. Designs that are more specialized might include the specific name of a service member lost during war who was important to the wearer.

Collection of three silicone wristbands with memorial day related sayings

 Why do people wear Memorial bracelets?

Wearing designs such as the ones described above can be an easy way to keep the life and memory of the deceased alive. Wrist bands and other inexpensive objects like it embody the idea that these heroes are "Gone but not forgotten" and can be a source of strength, pride and support for those who have suffered such a loss.

 What is the proper greeting for Memorial Day?

Unlike a lot of holidays, Memorial Day doesn't have an official or "proper" greeting. "Happy Memorial Day" isn't exactly correct and can even be frowned upon depending on who you say it to! Instead, take a moment of your day to pay respect and tribute to those lost during military service.

 What is the proper way to celebrate Memorial Day?

Similar to the above, there's no right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday, though there are things you may want to avoid. The coming of Summer is fun and catching good discounts is always welcome, but it's important to consider that not every American will see the day as one of celebration. For those who've lost loved ones in war, the holiday can often be a painful reminder. Offer them support and and find a way to raise awareness for the original meaning of the holiday.

Photo of a vintage fire truck at a Memorial Day parade celebration

 Why can't you wear white until Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is usually considered one of the unofficial starts of Summer. And since Summer is usually the hottest season, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries before widespread adoption of air-conditioning, white clothes are usually encouraged due to their ability to keep you a bit cooler during hot Summer days!

 How about what NOT to do on Memorial Day?

There isn't a formal list of Memorial Day Don'ts, though an obvious one would probably be "Don't disrespect the dead or the holiday". Memorial Day is meant as a day to remember those we've lost and to honor their memories.

Close up of an American flag with military gravestones in the background

 What are the symbols of Memorial Day?

American flags and other symbols of the military are common sights on Memorial Day, but it's less common (at least in the United States) to see stylized poppies worn on clothing, particularly the lapels of jackets. This style of small red and black flower is a common symbol of war remembrance, particularly in reference to World War I.

Close up of red and black artificial poppy flowers


No matter how you observe Memorial Day, we hope you have a peaceful holiday. And, as always, we hope this blog has brought you just a little bit of creative inspiration for your next custom wristband or keychain order!

In fact, click on the button below between now and Monday, May 27, 2024 to activate a 15% OFF coupon in honor of the Memorial Day holiday weekend!

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