Memorial Day has a lot to do with when the flowers bloom, believe it or not.

Most know that Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May in honor of the service members who sacrificed their lives while serving in the U.S. military.

Originally, the holiday dates back to the post-Civil War era, when the the Grand Army of the Republic — a group of Union veterans — created “Decoration Day” to lay flowers on the graves of the dead. In 1868, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan set that date on May 30 because he believed it would be when all the flowers would be at the height of bloom.

After all, April showers bring May flowers.

Today, Memorial Day is still observed in May. It’s customary for the public to observe a nationwide moment of silence and watch wreath laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, where some 400,000 veterans and their dependents are buried. The weekend before Memorial Day, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment lay American flags at more than 228,000 headstones.The President also places a wreath on The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Memorial is a federal holiday, and has been since 1971. On Monday, May 29, 2023, federal offices will be closed and employees will have the day off, creating a long weekend.

The District of Columbia traditionally hosts a free annual parade that follows Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th streets.

According to the Congressional Research Service, from 2006 through 2021, 19,378 active-duty service members have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The American Civil War recorded the most American military fatalities in history, followed by the first and second world wars.

There are 11 federal holidays recognized by the Office of Personnel Management. On these days, all non-essential government employees are off work, and most government offices are closed.

The next federal holiday will be Juneteenth, celebrated on Monday, June 19. This is one of the newer federal holidays that was presidentially designated in 2021 — and the first new holiday approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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