Memorial Day is a National holiday observed annually on the last Monday in May. The holiday honors men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. It’s also the unofficial beginning of summer.
To observe Memorial Day, many military cemeteries and war memorials hold commemorative events to honor and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. There are a variety of other meaningful events, such as military parades, concerts, and flags placed on military gravesites.
As with most holiday weekends, Memorial Day weekend is also a time for sales and shopping, picnics and barbecues, and fun with friends and family. Retailers and restaurants offer many discounts and freebies over the Memorial Day weekend.
Some of the retail discounts and deals are especially for military personnel or veterans, but many others are available to anyone.
Find Seattle-Tacoma metro area Memorial Day Weekend parades, ceremonies, sales, and discount deals in our event calendar below.
About Memorial Day
The roots of the Memorial Day holiday go back to the Civil War. People began the practice of placing flags or flowers on the graves at newly formed military cemeteries.
In 1868, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11 proclaimed the date of “Decoration Day”.
“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” — General John Logan.
To date, the Civil War has claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history (Civil War deaths ~625,000; World War I 116,516; World War II 405,399; plus numerous other wars have claimed 1.8 million American lives.
In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act, establishing the last Monday in May as the federal holiday Memorial Day.
Seattle’s First Memorial Day Service 1927
Arlington Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. is our nation’s most renowned veterans’ cemetery.
But for Seattle-area veterans and their spouses, being interred in Virginia would greatly hinder their loved ones from being able to visit their graves as often as they would prefer.
As early as 1904, local veterans of the Spanish American War began to search for ways to honor their fallen comrades with a local cemetery of their own. However, the start of the First World War delayed their efforts.
In 1927, Clinton S. Harley, then General Manager of Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in north Seattle and a veteran of the Spanish American War offered a large section of the cemetery for the burial of veterans and their spouses. The first Memorial Day Service at the new Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery was held that year on May 30.
Seattle’s mayor, Bertha K. Landes (the first woman to head the government of a major American city), called attention to these first services and issued a proclamation.
Memorial Day Weekend events 2019
(If nothing is listed below, this year’s Memorial Day events haven’t been updated on our calendar. We usually begin to update Memorial Day events sometime in late April or early May for the coming year.)