Memorial Day isn’t just an excuse to take a long weekend and loaf around eating grilled meats—although those are certainly among the reasons to love the holiday.
So before you head out to your barbecues and pool parties, here are some facts about Memorial Day, everybody’s favorite summer kick-off holiday.
It was originally called Decoration Day
To honor the deceased, soldiers would decorate graves of their fallen comrades with flowers, flags and wreaths. Hence Decoration Day. Although Memorial Day became its official title in the 1880s, the holiday wouldn’t legally become Memorial Day until 1967.
It wasn’t always celebrated the last Monday of May
After the Civil War, General John A. Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a holiday commemorating fallen soldiers to be observed every May 30. But due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which took effect in 1971, Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday of May to ensure long weekends. Some groups, like the veterans’ organization American Legion, have been working to restore the original date to set Memorial Day apart and pay proper tribute to the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives defending the nation.
This year, Memorial Day falls on Monday, May 28.
It’s legally required to observe a National Moment of Remembrance
In December 2000, Congress passed a law requiring Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to remember and honor the fallen. But this doesn’t appear to be common knowledge, or if it is, by 3 p.m. most people seem to be too deep into a hot dog-induced food coma to officially observe the moment.
James A. Garfield delivered a rather lengthy speech at the first Memorial Day ceremony
Of course then it was still called Decoration Day, and at the time, Garfield was a Civil War General and Republican Congressman, not yet a President. On May 30, 1868, he addressed the several thousand people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery. “If silence is ever golden,” Garfield said, “it must be beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.”
Several states observe Confederate Memorial Day
In addition to the national holiday, nine states officially set aside a day to honor those who died fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War: Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia. The days vary, but only Virginia observes Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of May, in accordance with the federal observance of Memorial Day.
Waterloo, New York is considered the birthplace of Memorial Day
According to Waterloo’s website, in 1966 Congress unanimously passed a resolution to officially recognize Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day. However, it remains a contentious debate, with other towns, like Boalsburg, Pa., claiming the title of “Birthplace of Memorial Day” as well.
More than 36 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home this Memorial Day
At least, according to AAA estimates. That’s the highest total since the recession.
Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his underground bunker
On April 30, 1945, holed up in a bunker under his headquarters in Berlin, Adolf Hitler commits suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting himself in the head. Soon after, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allied forces, ending Hitler’s dreams of a “1,000-year” Reich.
Since at least 1943, it was becoming increasingly clear that Germany would fold under the pressure of the Allied forces. In February of that year, the German 6th Army, lured deep into the Soviet Union, was annihilated at the Battle of Stalingrad, and German hopes for a sustained offensive on both fronts evaporated. Then, in June 1944, the Western Allied armies landed at Normandy, France, and began systematically to push the Germans back toward Berlin. By July 1944, several German military commanders acknowledged their imminent defeat and plotted to remove Hitler from power so as to negotiate a more favorable peace. Their attempts to assassinate Hitler failed, however, and in his reprisals, Hitler executed over 4,000 fellow countrymen.
In January 1945, facing a siege of Berlin by the Soviets, Hitler withdrew to his bunker to live out his final days. Located 55 feet under the chancellery, the shelter contained 18 rooms and was fully self-sufficient, with its own water and electrical supply. Though he was growing increasingly mad, Hitler continued to give orders and meet with such close subordinates as Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Josef Goebbels. He also married his long-time mistress Eva Braun just one day before his suicide.
In his last will and testament, Hitler appointed Admiral Karl Donitz as head of state and Goebbels as chancellor. He then retired to his private quarters with Braun, where he and Braun poisoned themselves and their dogs, before Hitler then also shot himself with his service pistol.
Hitler and Braun’s bodies were hastily cremated in the chancellery garden, as Soviet forces closed in on the building. When the Soviets reached the chancellery, they removed Hitler’s ashes, continually changing their location so as to prevent Hitler devotees from creating a memorial at his final resting place. Only eight days later, on May 8, 1945, the German forces issued an unconditional surrender, leaving Germany to be carved up by the four Allied powers.
Every year on April 22, trees are planted, litter is cleaned up, and awareness for the issues plaguing the planet are raised. In honor of the holiday, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020, we’ve gathered together 10 fascinating facts about Earth Day.
1. EARTH DAY WAS CREATED THROUGH THE TIRELESS EFFORTS OF WISCONSIN SENATOR GAYLORD NELSON.
Gaylord Nelson speaks at an Earth Day event in 2003.ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES
Senator Gaylord Nelson arrived in Washington in 1963 looking to make the fledgling conservation movement—sparked in part by Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring, which warned against the harmful effects of widespread pesticide usage—a part of the national discourse. After witnessing the aftermath of an oil spill in California in 1969, Nelson doubled down on his commitment to raising environmental awareness. Drawing inspiration from the energetic anti-war movement of the time, he enlisted support from both sides of the political spectrum, and on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was born.
2. JOHN F. KENNEDY PLAYED A ROLE IN EARLY EFFORTS TO PROMOTE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION.
In 1963, Gaylord Nelson proposed a “conservation tour” to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Arthur Schlesinger, a member of President Kennedy’s “Best and Brightest” cabinet. Schlesinger privately endorsed the idea to the president, while Nelson wrote a direct memo to Kennedy, a bold move for a freshman senator from Wisconsin. Kennedy, however, was incredibly receptive, and on September 24, 1963, JFK embarked on a conservation-themed multi-state tour.
The president, accompanied by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, as well as Nelson and a few additional senators, visited 11 states in five days. Nelson was disappointed in the president’s speeches, saying they “didn’t have much sweep or drama to them.” In addition, members of the press ignored environmental issues and instead focused their questions on the tense nuclear situation with the Soviet Union. It would be another seven years until Earth Day became a reality.
3. THE FIRST EARTH DAY SAW 20 MILLION AMERICANS TAKE TO THE STREETS.
Crowds gather in Union Square in New York City for the first Earth Day in 1970. HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES
The first Earth Day marked a strange combination of boisterous rallies and sober reflection on the state of the planet. Protests, demonstrations, fundraisers, nature walks, speeches, concerts, and every sort of civic gathering imaginable took place at colleges, VFW halls, public squares, and parks across the United States on April 22, 1970. Environmental crusaders found themselves thrust into the limelight, and pop culture icons like poet Allen Ginsberg were asked to speak on behalf of Mother Earth.
Some of the more colorful displays of the day included mock trials for polluting objects, like an old Chevrolet, which was sentenced to death by sledgehammer. (The car ultimately survived the beating and was donated to an art class.) In New York City, Earth Day celebrations effectively shut downparts of the city. Twenty-thousand people packed into Union Square to see Paul Newman and hear a speech by Mayor John Lindsay, who arrived on an electric bus.
4. THE DATE OF EARTH DAY WAS SPECIFICALLY SELECTED TO MOBILIZE COLLEGE STUDENTS.
To head up the Earth Day project, Senator Nelson enlisted Denis Hayes, then a graduate student at Harvard University. As national coordinator, Hayes recruited a staff of 85 energetic young environmental crusaders and grassroots organizers, along with thousands of field volunteers, in order to promote the fledgling holiday across the nation. The team knew that in order to gain the most traction, college students would need to play a central role, as they did in the Vietnam protests of the era. The date that Hayes selected for the first Earth Day was a calculated choice: April 22 on most college campuses falls right between Spring Break and final exams.
5. EARTH DAY FACED CRITICISM FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.
President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, plant a tree on the White House lawn during the first Earth Day.
According to Grist, the first Earth Day faced staunch opposition from conservative groups like the John Birch Society, which claimed that the event was a thinly veiled attempt to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin. In addition to detractors on the far right of the political spectrum, bleeding-heart environmental crusaders weren’t satisfied, either. Earth Day, they claimed, simply served as a distraction from the more pressing social issues of the day. Journalist I.F. Stone said, “The country is slipping into a wider war in Southeast Asia and we’re sitting here talking about litterbugs.” Critics of the holiday also point to the trend of “greenwashing,” an attempt by corporations with poor environmental track records to appear conscientious if only once a year.
6. EARTH DAY SPARKED AN UNPRECEDENTED SLATE OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION.
With bipartisan support in Congress and thousands of civic demonstrations across the country, support for environmental reform in 1970 was undeniable. According to the EPA, “Public opinion polls indicate that a permanent change in national priorities followed Earth Day 1970. When polled in May 1971, 25 percent of the U.S. public declared protecting the environment to be an important goal, a 2500 percent increase over 1969.”
The 1970s saw the passage of the most comprehensive environmental legislation in U.S. history, including the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. In addition, just eight months after the first Earth Day, Richard Nixon approved the creation of a new organization tasked with monitoring the nation’s natural assets: the Environmental Protection Agency.
7. ALTHOUGH IT BEGAN AS AN AMERICAN MOVEMENT, EARTH DAY IS NOW AN INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON…
In 1990, Earth Day expanded to include countries and peoples across the globe, with 200 million people in 141 nations getting involved. A decade later, at the turn of the new millennium, Earth Day shed light on the emerging Clean Energy movement and expanded its reach, spreading to 184 countries with the help of 5000 environmental organizations. Global activities included a massive traveling drum chain in Gabon, Africa, and an unprecedented gathering of hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. According to Earth Day Network, after 40 years, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular civic event in the world.
8. …AND INTERNATIONALLY, IT’S KNOWN AS INTERNATIONAL MOTHER EARTH DAY.
Earth Day is now observed around the world, albeit under a different name: In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly decided to designate April 22 as International Mother Earth Day. The symbol of Mother Earth serves as a common metaphor and representation of our planet in many countries and cultures. In the United States, the holiday is still commonly referred to as Earth Day.
9. IN 2009, NASA PLANTED A HISTORIC “MOON TREE” TO CELEBRATE EARTH DAY.
Most of Roosa’s original “Moon Trees” were planted in time for the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976.
During the Apollo 14 moon mission in 1971, astronaut Stuart Roosa brought with him hundreds of tree seeds including Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Redwood, and Douglas Fir. Roosa was a former smokejumper for the U.S. Forest Service, and he transported the seeds in his personal effects as a tribute to his former employer. Roosa and his seeds orbited the Moon 34 times in the command module Kitty Hawk. Scientists were curious whether or not exposure to the microgravity of space would impact the growth of these seeds when returned to Earth.
The experiment seemed like a lost cause when, during the post-mission decontamination process, the seed canisters broke open and the seeds were thought to be useless. However, most of the tree seeds were still fit for germination and were successfully planted and cultivated. These trees were planted around National Monuments, as well as in sites all over the world. After decades of growing side-by-side with their Earth cousins, the Moon Trees showed no differences at all. On Earth Day 2009, NASA, in partnership with the United States National Arboretum and American Forests, planted a second generation Moon Sycamore on the arboretum’s grounds in Washington, D.C.
10. THE THEME FOR EARTH DAY 2020 IS “CLIMATE ACTION.”
Every year since Earth Day 2016, there has been a new theme attached to the holiday in anticipation for its 50th anniversary in 2020. In 2016, it was Trees for the Earth, followed by Environmental and Climate Literacy in 2017, End Plastic Pollution in 2018, and Protect Our Species in 2019. For 2020, organizers went with an obvious campaign: Climate Action.
Organizers are hopeful that this will be a day to raise awareness of both the dangers of climate change and the opportunities people have to make a difference in the fight. And despite the social distancing necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrations and conferences are still happening, albeit virtually. Head to the Earth Day 2020 website find out more.
Many countries observe Good Friday as a national holiday on the Friday before Easter. The day commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.
Some countries observe the Orthodox calendar in which Good Friday may occur on a different date.
What is Good Friday?
The most important events in Christianity are the death and later resurrection of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God, and whose life and teachings are the foundation of Christianity.
After the last supper, Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, put on trial, sentenced to death. He was then tied and nailed by the wrists and feet to a large wooden cross and left to die. Therefore the cross is used as a symbol of the Christian faith.
Good Friday is a day of mourning. During special Good Friday services Christians meditate on Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross, and what this means for their faith.
Why is it called ‘Good Friday’?
At first glance, it seems a strange name for a day that marked such a terrible event as a crucifixion, but when we look at the origin of the name it becomes clearer… or it would if there was one origin that people could agree on. As it stands, you can take your pick from the following:
Some say it comes from the use of “Good” as an adjective applied to the day, which is an Old English synonym for “holy.”
Others believe it stems from a corruption of the word “God,” in much the same way that “Goodbye” comes from the phrase “God be with ye.” So the name may be derived from ‘God’s Friday’.
Undoubtedly most Christians perceive the day as “good” because the message of Easter is of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil. Indeed, the New Testament is also known as the Gospel, which is Greek for ‘Good News’.
Also, it also worth noting that this confusion over the name is mainly confined to Western European and North American Christians. Eastern Orthodox Christians call it “Great and Holy Friday. Around the rest of the world, it’s known as Holy Friday in most Latin nations, ‘Great Friday’ by the Slavic peoples, “Friday of Mourning” in Germany and “Long Friday” in Norway.
Good Friday Traditions
Many Church services are held in the afternoon, usually between noon to 3pm, to remember the hours when Jesus was crucified on the cross.
Some churches observe the day by re-enacting the process of the cross in the rituals of stations of the cross, which depicts the final hours of Jesus’ life. Other churches may participate in Veneration of the Cross, a short ceremony in which Christians kneel before the cross and affirm their faith.
In Jerusalem, Christians follow in Jesus’ footsteps and walk Via Dolorosa, the traditional path that led to the site of the crucifixion. Many who participate try to ritually bear the same weight Jesus did by carrying crosses on their backs.
Though it’s not a public holiday in the Vatican or Italy, the Pope will say a mass at the Vatican before leads an annual public prayer of the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome. A procession is then made to the Palatine Hill, accompanied by a huge cross covered in burning torches.
Below is a list of monthly holidays in April. These include federal holidays, International holidays, as well as various religious holidays. It is always important to know when holidays fall so that you can plan. Feel free to check other sections of the website for other holidays.
According to an article from the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, COVID-19 is a variant of the coronavirus that caused the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003. As a result, its official name is: severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. It’s also a relative of the coronavirus Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as MERS, which surfaced in the Middle East beginning in 2012. And for simple ways to keep yourself safe from coronavirus, check out 17 Small and Easy Ways to Prevent Coronavirus.