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15 Memorial Day activities to commemorate the holiday

Honor the federal holiday and learn about our nation's history in the process.
Washington Monument
This year, Memorial Day falls on Monday, May 27.Greg Pease / Getty Images

Many of us take the opportunity to gather with friends and family over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Aside from spending quality time with our loved ones, there are plenty of Memorial Day pastimes that will remind us all of the reason for the holiday, which is always observed on the last Monday in May. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, May 27.

While popular Memorial Day activities often have a festive element, it's important to remember that Memorial Day is inherently a solemn occasion.

That's why the federal holiday is an opportunity to get involved in your community, whether you're decorating for a parade, visiting a monument, or volunteering with veterans.

These activities will get the whole family involved in honoring and learning about our nation’s history.

Make Memorial Day bouquets

Memorial Day Bouquet
Getty Images / iStockphoto

Gather a bouquet of red, white, and blue flowers to bring the Memorial Day spirit home. To add extra pizzazz, secure the bouquet with a flag-themed ribbon and pass the finished product out to neighbors.

Learn more about American history

Memorial Day is a great opportunity to brush up on your knowledge of America's past. Pick up a biography, novel, or nonfiction book to learn more about the brave military personnel who shaped our history.

Attend a Memorial Day parade

Memorial Day Parade
US sailors and Marines march during the 156th Brooklyn's Memorial Day Parade on May 29, 2023. Yuki Iwamura / AFP via Getty Images

Hundreds of towns and cities across America host local parades to celebrate Memorial Day. If you happen to be in Washington, D.C., check out the National Memorial Day Parade, the nation's largest.

Mark the National Moment of Remembrance

At 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, take a moment to pause and honor members of the U.S. military who died serving our country.

Watch the National Memorial Day Concert

2021 National Memorial Day Concert
Sara Bareilles performs at the 2021 National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, DC. Theo Wargo / Getty Images

This annual concert is a Memorial Day must-see. Watch the performance on your local PBS station or livestream it on their website.

Make poppy lapel pins

The Queen Consort Attends The 94th Year Of The Field Of Remembrance
Camilla, Queen Consort (Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles and Patron of the Poppy Factory), Rifles brooch and poppy detail, visits the 94th Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey on November 10, 2022 in London, England. Max Mumby / Indigo / Getty Images

Poppy flowers became popular symbols for remembrance of fallen soldiers after World War I. You can create your own poppy lapel pin by crafting a paper flower or attaching a real poppy with a safety pin.

Visit a local war monument, museum, or battlefield

Lincoln Memorial Statue
Pam Susemiehl / Getty Images

There are hundreds of historical sites that commemorate U.S. soldiers across the country. Pay a visit to a nearby battlefield, military museum, or war memorial this Memorial Day.

Visit a national park

National Park
Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Taking in the natural beauty of our country will certainly remind you to honor and appreciate the brave people who fought to protect it.

Many national parks also contain monuments and memorials that honor soldiers and commemorate past battles.

Create Memorial Day decorations

Child paints
Getty Images

Whether you're going to a local parade or simply observing the holiday at home, create some red, white, and blue decorations that you can display proudly.

Host a patriotic potluck

Funwithfood / Getty Images/iStockphoto

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day than connecting with your community? Gather your friends and loved ones for a holiday potluck.

Bring flowers to a national cemetery

Annual Wreaths Across America Event Held At Arlington National Cemetery
Volunteers place Christmas wreaths on headstones as they participate in Wreaths Across America day at Arlington National Cemetery on December 16, 2023.Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day due to the practice of decorating soldiers' graves with flowers.

You can continue this longstanding tradition by volunteering or bringing flowers to one of our national cemeteries. (Of course, make sure they're accepting flowers before you go.)

Find a participating nearby national cemetery here.

Visit a veteran-owned business

While you’re doing your Memorial Day shopping this year, consider supporting a veteran-owned business. You can find a list of local businesses here.

Wear red, white, and blue

This one is the easiest of the bunch: Show off your patriotic style with an outfit that incorporates our flag's colors.

Watch a historical movie or documentary

Immerse yourself in events you’ve only read about in books. Whether based on a true story or simply drawn from history, check out acclaimed movies like “Dunkirk“ or 2023 Oscar nominee “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

Volunteer at a veterans organization

War veterans
Getty Images / iStockphoto

While honoring fallen soldiers, we should also think of our living veterans who may need assistance. For a full list of volunteer opportunities and ways to donate your time, check out the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs here.