Veterans Day and Memorial Day both honour the military community in the United States, but the two holidays serve different purposes and have origins in two various wars.
Armistice Day was the name given to Veterans Day in the beginning.
Veterans Day honours all who have served in the United States military and is commemorated every November.
On November 11, the day World War I ended in 1918, the federal holiday was observed.
A year later, on November 11, President Woodrow Wilson commemorated the first Armistice Day. It wasn’t until 1938, however, that Congress declared it a national holiday.
Veterans Day was established in 1954 to honour veterans of all wars fought by the United States. The day is still known as Armistice Day in France and other parts of Europe.
However, for several years, Veteran’s Day was celebrated in October.
To ensure a long weekend for workers, the Uniform Holiday Act of 1968 moved the holiday from November 11 to the “fourth Monday in October.”
However, due to the significance of marking the war’s end, President Gerald Ford moved the holiday back to November in 1975.
The origins of Memorial Day can be traced back to the Civil War
On the other hand, Memorial Day is dedicated to those who have died while serving in the United States military. It was created to honour soldiers who fought in the Civil War, but it was later expanded to include those who died in all wars, similar to Veterans Day.
According to history professor Matthew Dennis of NPR in 2005, Memorial Day was initially known as Decoration Day and was observed on May 30. It was the day when soldiers from both sides of the Civil War — the Union and the Confederacy — laid flowers on the graves of their fallen comrades.
The annual tradition of placing flags and flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers is thought to have started in Waterloo, New York. This custom is still practised across the country today.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress changed the official holiday to the last Monday in May almost a century later, in 1971.