Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868 to mourn and honor soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War. After U.S. involvement in World War I and World War II, the holiday became the widespread day of remembrance we know today, in honor of those who made the final sacrifice.
But the holidays have also evolved into something else.
Today, the national moment is also commonly associated with offers and discounts, especially on mattresses, a phenomenon that may seem a little strange at best and downright offensive at worst. How did it happen?
Check out our timeline below to keep up with the evolution of Memorial Day from Civil War-era “Decoration Day” to modern retail extravaganza.
Related: Make a personal connection a Honor the Fallen That Commemorative Day
The first annual formal Memorial Day ceremony in the entire town to commemorate the fallen soldiers is held on May 5 in Waterloo, New York. The city is considered “the cradle of Memorial Day.”
General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic proclaims the first day of the national commemoration, in honor of the sacrifices of the soldiers of the Civil War. After a speech by former Union General James Garfield at Arlington National Cemetery during the first national celebration, some 5,000 attendees helped decorate the more than 20,000 graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.
At this time, the festival is called “Decoration Day”, so called because of the same tradition of visiting the cemetery to decorate the tombs with flowers, wreaths and flags.
New York State calls the national holiday an official legal holiday, and other states soon follow suit.
The tide of celebration is beginning to change rapidly; Less than a decade after the first celebration of the holiday, some are accused of not having proper respect for the military service of fallen heroes. “The old pathos and the solemnity of the act have also faded, except in very quiet rural places,” New York said. Tribune he wrote in 1875.
A few years later, in 1878, the publication once again pointed to the changing sentiment toward the federal holiday: “It would be idle to deny that as individual grief for the fallen fades, the day loses importance. The political character of the observance will last as long as we dare not guess. “
Related: Want to generate Buzz? Create your own Party.
The Great Army of the Republic encourages people to call the holiday “Remembrance Day” instead of “Decoration Day,” but the new title is slow to understand, given the tradition of Memorial Day with which it began. in 1868.
The U.S. Congress approves a resolution declaring the holiday for all government employees per diem.
Radio stations take root in big cities, and businesses don’t waste time using it for commercial purposes in the U.S.
Congress declares the day a national holiday, and “Remembrance Day” is becoming more common, although the U.S. government will not officially adopt the name until 1967.
Cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have local televisions in operation. Both national ads with high production values and local low-budget ads come into play.
Congress signs the Uniform Monday Vacation Act, which permanently moves Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, and Labor Day to Monday. The law also establishes Columbus Day as a federal holiday, which must also be observed on Mondays.
Three years later, on January 1, 1971, the Uniform Monday Vacation Act came into force.
With an officially established three-day weekend, Americans have extra free time. Some might take the opportunity to travel and spend money. Others may choose to stay closer to home and also spend money.
It seems that advertisers quickly picked up on the trend that Memorial Day (and other holiday signings in the three-day weekend law) had begun. After all, when people have free time and money to burn, what better way to attract them than with attractive discounts and promotions?
Cyberspace offers a new frontier for marketers. As email enters the mainstream and communication becomes more instantaneous than ever, advertisers are able to skillfully target specific groups of potential buyers, regaining a level of personalization that was left in the way. in the age of the media, but which began to resurface with the rise of cable television and the channels that catered to certain audiences.
Related: Gain 60% more engagement with these 9 email list segmentation strategies
Mid-2000s to the present
The proliferation of various social networking sites and applications, starting with MySpace in 2003, transforming with Facebook a year later, and finally evolving into the dominant players we have today, including Instagram and TikTok, offers another opportunity. for advertisers to use targeted ads. , especially when influencers join the conversation.
So … what about these mattresses?
We’ve found that people are more likely to travel and shop — and therefore spend — when they have a day off from work, but why mattress sales seem to be the focus during this time of year. ?
Well, it turns out it could be just that – the time of year.
Nearly 40 million Americans move each year, and more than half of them will move between May and September. This means that by the time spring arrives (and Memorial Day with it), approximately 24 million people will probably be thinking about an impending move, which includes all the usual considerations: what to keep and what to get rid of.
For those who add a bedroom or just want an upgrade, Memorial Day mattress sales serve as a prime opportunity to get a bargain on what can be a very high cost item. It is also an important purchase, as despite research showing that Americans spend an average of 36 years in bed in their lifetime, three out of four Americans believe that their bed could be more comfortable.
Related: 8 reasons why sleeping is crucial for entrepreneurs and leaders
And here it is: from the American Civil War to the present day, how the honor of fallen heroes was transformed into the mattress-filled Memorial Day we know today.
Despite the intense marketing of Memorial Day weekend, it is still a great opportunity to observe some of these earlier Memorial Day traditions, or any new ones that help fulfill this original purpose of remembrance.