I looked it up, after all these years. God bless Wikipedia:
“The history of Memorial Day in the United States is so controversial that it constitutes an area of research. At Columbus [Georgia] State University there is a Center for Memorial Day Research. It, together with the University of Mississippi's Center for Civil War Research, are excellent starting points for investigating the topic.”
And there is a lot to investigate. It was called Decoration Day for a long time and seems to have originated with spontaneous individual efforts by women to honour—and decorate the grave(s) of—fallen loved ones.The efforts were spasmodic and unorganized at first, but then an attitude and a growing need centred around the Civil War (1861-1865) .Some credit is given to Lincoln and his address at Gettysburg (November, 1863). The growing ritual/recognition was called Decoration Day. It became a federal holiday honouring Americans who had died in military service (as opposed to Remembrance Day or Armistice Day— Veterans’ Day), remembering the fallen of two—or more?—world wars). Memorial Day was officially named by federal law in 1967. I’m trying to condense this complicated history but it goes on.
“On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend.” Wikipedia
Ay, there’s the key. Americans consider this day (for Canadians it’s Victoria Day, the week before) to be the official beginning of summer and Labour Day the end. So it is with all of us. Though we retain some vestige of respect for those who have given the “ultimate sacrifice”, it’s all about having fun now. Check stats to see how many people were killed in car crashes over the long weekend, how many DUIs, how many knifings in nightclubs, on and on.