Visiting Washington D.C. at the end of May? If so, you should add many of the Memorial Day activities happening around D.C. to your list. Memorial Day is commemorated on the last Monday of May every single year. This year, Memorial Day will be observed on Monday, May 25.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in which many men and women are off from work. It is different from most holidays in the sense that while it is a holiday to celebrate, Memorial Day is to be celebrated in a somber and observant mindset. The phrase “Happy Memorial Day”, while mistakingly and commonly used, should not be used for this holiday. It is a day for remembering and honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for the freedoms of all Americans and thus, should be reflected upon in a serious and respectful manner.
The History Behind Memorial Day
Memorial Day has its origins in the American Civil War. It was first observed in May 1868 to recognize and give pause to the sacrifices of many Union soldiers who died. Then Ohio Congressman and future 20th President of the United States, James Garfield, was one of the speakers in this gathering at Arlington National Cemetery. He urged everyone in attendance to be mindful and thankful for those that gave their lives to defend the Union. After the conclusion of the speech, the approximately 5,000 participants proceeded to decorate the graves of the soldiers with flowers. In the 1880s the name of this day changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. Over the course of roughly 100 years, this day grew in reverence as more Americans fought and died in WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, and many other wars. Many states even made it a legal holiday. It was not until 1971 that Congress officially passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which mandated that Memorial Day be observed on the final Monday of May.
It is commonplace throughout America that there are parades with former service members in attendance. Family members of those lost will visit the graves of their loved ones at national cemeteries throughout the country to pay their respects and lay flowers. In Washington D.C., it is not ordinary for the President to attend a reverent service at Arlington National Cemetery before laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Events Around D.C. for Memorial Day 2020
For those in town during Memorial Day weekend, the National Memorial Day Parade will take place on Constitution Avenue at 2 PM. T
he entrance to the parade is free. There will be several marching bands, floats, singers and performers, as well as veterans from previous wars and overseas conflicts. For those wishing to have the full emotional experience, you can visit the many memorials lining the National Mall that honor the lives lost from past wars. These memorials include the following: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and World War II Memorial. Additionally, on Sunday, May 24, the National Memorial Day Concert will begin at 8 PM on the west lawn of the Capitol. The entrance to the concert is also free, but please note that security is strict for this event. Oversized bags will not be allowed in.
Washington D.C Accommodations
Our nation’s capital is home to many great neighborhoods – each with its own unique character and aesthetic. If you are looking to break out of the normal big hotel routine, we would love to have you stay at our Dupont circle bed and breakfast for Memorial Day weekend. We are conveniently located between Woodley Park and Dupont Circle. Additionally, our bed and breakfast is a brisk 12-minute walk to the metro. If you plan to attend the Memorial Day festivities on Constitution Avenue, plan on a 20-minute commute via metro (including transfers). We hope to see you soon!