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Did you know that Memorial Day is commemorated in different ways and on different dates throughout our nation? The observance had its beginnings during the Civil War, which is a good hint that there would not be uniformity.
More than two dozen cities and towns lay claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day, and each had its own customs. There is evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.
Following the war, towns in the North decided it would be a good idea to honor their military dead also. In 1868, “Decoration Day” was officially proclaimed. It was so named because the emphasis was on decorating graves of fallen soldiers.
By 1890, it had been adopted by all northern states. Most southern states refused to observe the national day because of lingering hostilities. They continued with their own state observances, spread throughout the year.
It wasn’t until after World War I that the South began recognizing the federal Decoration Day. Many men from both North and South gave their lives in that war, making unification finally possible.
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