Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 31 in 2010). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the Civil War), it was expanded after World War I.
Memorial Day, first observed May 30, 1868, didn’t become an official federal holiday until 1971, when Congress passed the National Holiday Act. This created a three-day weekend at the end of May. Prior to this, different states observed the holiday on different days.
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