Blue Flower

Difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day (4th of July), and Labor Day.


Tech Notes has readers from all around the world.  In the USA, we have federal recognized holidays called Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.  There are other holidays, but this article is focused on those four.  On Memorial Day of 2015, I had decided to do a short writeup on the simple technical difference between these holidays, as it seemed many were either curious, or confused about these days, and/or wrongly associate military with all of them or just see them as a day off work with not much meaning.  Two of those holidays are dedicated to military in one form or another, even if indirect, and the other two holidays have nothing to do with the military or soldiers.  I update this article on occasion.  Updated August 12, 2016.

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Memorial Day1,2

Little Bit Of History

Memorial Day started off as a decoration day.  This referenced the idea of decorating the grave sites of died soldiers of one's family or soldiers one knew and wished to remember.  It is believed this began after the end of the Civil War and took more solid form 3 years later (5/5/1968) when the head of a veteran's fraternity, called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), assigned May 30th to be Decoration Day, which was to be a time for the nation to decorate with flowers the graves of those who died in war.  The GAR veteran's were vets of the Union Army.  Choosing the Spring day of May 30th was a smart date, as flowers are in full bloom by then, and thus flowers became more easily available to all for decoration.

Decoration Day was not observed by all, nor by all states and cities, and often by just some portions of communities.  By 1888 Decoration Day was more widely observed nationally, and that year it was added as an official observed holiday by the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.; capitol of USA), and for federal employees, but still not a national holiday.  Other legislation followed that had an impact on federal and postal workers in regards to federal holidays and Memorial Day.  After World War I (One) and World War II (Two), on 6/28/1968 congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act (aka "National Holiday Act"), which forced observation of holiday periods for a set list of holidays.  At that time, the required time period was 3 days, and it began as of 1/1/1971 for the list of holidays.  One of those federal holidays was Memorial Day (Decoration Day), and that is when I believe it got it's official meaningful federal recognition and became a national holiday.  The National Holiday Act also caused Memorial Day to have it's celebration date be changed to the Last Monday of May each year, and caused the holiday's range to expand beyond just Civil war period, and became a day set aside in memory of dead soldiers of any war.

What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day/Decoration Day is the the last Monday of May each year in the USA.  It is a holiday to allow time to be taken off to remember dead soldiers of any war.  In recent times, this holiday has mutated by some people to be a time to pay one's respect or honor dead soldiers, which is more than just remembering them.

States, local governments, and people cannot be forced to observe this day, as is the case with any federal holiday, but the financial, mail and delivery relationships between local governments and federal and postal services most often causes local governments to adopt federal holidays.  Special interest group pressures upon states and local governments also cause adoption of holidays and are typically the origins for the creation of a holiday.  Even though there were earlier scattered individual and small group grave decoration events, it is typically believed that Decoration Day (Memorial Day) was pushed into society and national existence by pressures from a veteran's fraternity, called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).  According to records, the GAR's reason/excuse for wanting a national decoration holiday was that veterans could not participate in ceremonies without a day's loss of pay, and needed such a federal day, like Decoration Day, that gave them time off with pay.


Veterans Day

Little Bit Of History

Supposedly, according to some sources, Veterans Day started as Armistice Day (aka Truce Day), which was to remember the end of World War I (One) in November, 11, 1918.  After World War II (Two), and the Korean War, the Congress was pressured by a special interest group of war veterans to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day.  On 6/1/1954, that change occurred, and the old 1938 Act was amended and became Veterans Day to honor all veterans of all wars.

What is Veterans Day?

Veterans Day is a holiday scheduled for November 11 of each year in the USA.  It is a day reserved to honor military personnel.  It is a federal holiday.


Independence Day

*What is Independence Day in USA?

Independence Day is celebrated on 4th of July of each year in the USA and it is the celebration of the day the United Sates Of America's declared it's independence from the control, ownership, and abuse of Great Britain (United Kingdom/Britain/England).  In essence, it is when USA was born and declared it's freedom from the rule and ownership of Great Britain.  From the Deceleration of Independence document, "these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved".5  Independence Day is a federal holiday in the USA.  Independence Day is often referred to as "July 4th", or "4th Of July", but those phrases are not substitute names, and reference the date the holiday is celebrated.  In current times, Independence Day is commonly celebrated with lighting of fireworks or electronic light shows, music, and outdoor activities (picnics and games), the display of the "American" flag (USA flag), and the display of the USA flag colors red, white, and blue.  Although, early celebration of Independence day was done with display of the color green.

*Independence Day is correct, and not 4th Of July

Business marketing, such as store sales (a huge day and week for sales), often refer to the date instead of the title of the holiday (Independence Day), as it takes less advertising print or screen real estate.  It is also common for people to choose a quicker pronounced single syllable word like forth, than a 4 syllable word like independence.  Unfortunately, the regular reference to the date and not calling out to the name of Independence Day has led to the population of the new generations to often think it is simply called "July 4th" or "4th Of July", and just about fireworks and partying.  The simple exposure to the word Independence sends an important remembrance message that should not be forgotten.  It is important to refer to this holiday as Independence Day, and in fact incorrect sentence structure by referring to it as anything else, unless talking specifically about it's date.  If you are talking about this day, or the celebrations of this day, then please always try to refer to it as Independence Day, and enlighten others on why this should be done.  There are entities that want the true meaning of Independence Day lost; another reason why other phrases may get used instead of the proper name of Independence Day.  Simply hearing the name Independence Day makes a person (child or adult) ask why, how, when, and where.

*Independence Day not related to Military

Independence Day (July 4th) has absolutely nothing to do with the military or soldiers and should not in any form be confused with the other holidays mentioned in this article.  It would be inappropriate to combine Independence Day celebrations with honoring soldiers or veterans, as Independence Day is not related to soldiers, and USA has a dedicated day (Veterans Day) for that specific purpose.  Sometimes people incorrectly assume military association because military cannon's and guns occasionally get fired on Independence Day as part of a salute.  Usually, the firing of weapons, when possible, would be to the count of 13 to represent the original thirteen colonies of the USA.  It should be noted that in some USA regions, bells are rung 13 times instead of weapons being fired.

Independence Day celebration is focused on the act of the official declaration of independence, the birth of a new nation, and those who drafted and labored to make the Declaration Of Independence a reality.  The official declaration day of independence, July 4, 1776 (although agreed to by many on July 2nd) was not a day of war, or military action. 

Related Surprising History Nuggets

  1. *USA Capitol Attacked And Burned Twice
    Most people would be surprised to find out that after USA declared independence from Britain in 1776 CE, the British attacked the USA capitol on two separate occasions in the early 1800s, and burned down the USA capitol, and after each occasion the capitol was rebuilt. The United Kingdom (Britain) has been the only country that has successfully invaded USA and taken over it's capitol.  Current rumor has it that affluent families of UK never gave up on gaining control back of USA, may it be through economic means, social tactics, or religious binding.  Some say control has been regained to a very large extent through media; and business ownerships and/or control; and done under the name of "Friend".

  2. *USA Not A Democracy, And Is A Republic As Founding Fathers Wanted
    Most "Americans" (USA people) and most people around the world would also be surprised that the founding fathers of the USA and the drafters of the constitution of the USA warned against the USA becoming a Democracy and did not want the country to become a Democracy.  They warned that a Democracy would allow a few entities, small groups, families, a few people, etc. to take control of the country, have unfair influence, and abuse society and/or simply have too much power in the hands of a few.  This is why the USA was drafted as a Republic and not a Democracy, and I believe is still a Republic to some extent.  In the media and even in the schools the word democracy is ignorantly thrown around in reference to the USA.  The founding fathers of the USA warned in one form or another that a Democracy was high risk in that it could take power away from the people.  Oddly, when USA television is watched, you get a sense that there is a constant push to make USA a Democracy and for the population to see it as a Democracy.  Even the USA pledge that most US children and adult citizens know states, "I pledge allegiance to the Flag, of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands".  Even the USA states were expected to have a republic government.  In Article IV, Section 4 of the USA Constitution, it is declared "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government".  It does not say Democratic Form Of Government.

  3. *Independence Day Was Originally Celebrated With Color Green
    It was interesting to find out that very early celebrations of Independence Day were done with the color green, and not the red, white, and blue typically associated.  On July 3, 1778, General George Washington directed his army to put "green-boughs" on their hats as part of Independence Day celebration the next day.4  I've gotten the impression that this was a short lived tradition.  I can envision how people must have decorated with colors of green and maybe even wore green.  If you got links to old paintings showing this, or links to websites that provide more evidence of this almost forgotten fact, then please post them in the Comment section below.  Green was probably chosen as a symbol of birth or new life for the newly declared country of USA.  Much like the way the Persian's use the color green in their new year celebrations (Norooz/Nowrooz) to represent life and new start and birth.  George Washington, being a military person, most likely studied tactics and cultures of grand empires like the Persian Empire (Persia is now called Iran), and he or others may have even adopted the idea from there.


Labor Day 3

(I plan to add more to this section; your input is welcome; check back please)
Labor Day is a holiday celebrated on the 1st Monday in September.  It is a federal holiday.  It is a holiday to honor historical contributions of the American labor force (labor work force) that helped make the United States of America (I think especially during the industrial age).  This holiday has nothing to do with the military, veterans, or soldiers.  Of course, a worker could have also been a vet, or an active military, or military reserve personnel.  As stated by the US Department of Labor, this holiday is "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers".

Special interest groups, that were labor unions, were behind getting Labor Day created.  This holiday was initially accepted within a few states, one at a time, and eventually pushed into national adoption.

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1. CRS Report for Congress from 2/8/1999.
2. Memorial Day History from Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.
3. U.S. Department of Labor.
4. Book: "General George Washington: A Military Life"  By Edward G. Lengel
5. The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.