Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, Decoration Day was established as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. It was declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30, because flowers would be in bloom all over the country, is the belief.
The ceremonies included speeches and children strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.