Did you know that Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day? Shortly after the Civil War, a group of Union veterans called for a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers on May 30. The date was perhaps selected because flowers were in bloom all across the U.S. by late May.
In 1888, Congress declared Decoration Day a federal holiday in the District of Columbia so that veterans in federal employ could honor their fallen comrades and not lose a day’s pay. Decoration Day gradually became known as Memorial Day as the holiday expanded to commemorate veterans of all wars.
In 1968, Congress passed a law that named and moved several federal holidays. Included in H.R. 15951 was the official declaration of Memorial Day as a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday of May.
H.R. 15851, 05/10/1968, Records of the U.S. Senate