Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states then others followed. It is now celebrated on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays).
Americans honor those who have lost their lives by visiting cemeteries, placing flags and flowers on graves, flying the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon, attending parades and participating in the “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3.00pm.