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Memorial Day: How much do you know about the holiday's history?

May 24, 2012|By Catharine M. Hamm | Los Angeles Times Travel editor

Memorial Day is a day off for many of us, so as you’re lighting the fire and throwing another burger on the grill, consider this quiz, which talks about the meaning of the day. If you get all 10, well, pop open a beverage and have another dog.

1. Memorial Day was originally called something else. What was it?

a.  Day of the Dead

b. Remembrance Day

c. Decoration Day

d. Armistice Day

2. During what war did the day originate?

a. Revolutionary War

b. Civil War

c. World War I

d. Korean War

3. Several places claim they are the real founders of the day. Which place in the South might have been the earliest adopter? Bonus point: in What year?

a. Columbus, Georgia

b. Colombia, South Carolina

c. Columbus, Mississippi

d. Columbus, Texas

4. What was the name of the cemetery at which the dead were remembered?

a. Holy Family Cemetery

b. Friendship Cemetery

c. Garden of Eden Cemetery

d. Memorial Cemetery

5. About a century after that Southern state commemorated its war dead, what Northern town won recognition  by congressional proclamation as the “inventor,” as it were?

a. Waterloo, Iowa

b. Waterville, Maine

c. Waterbury, Conn.

d. Waterloo, N.Y.

6. Who was Gen. John Logan and what does he have to do with Memorial Day?

a. A World War II general who saw the French honoring the war dead and bought the idea back to the U.S.

b. U.S. general who, as head of the Grand Army of the Republic, urged followers to decorate graves to honor war dead

c. A Korean War general who studied cultural difference in how the war dead were honored, and realized that Americans were not doing enough to honor their dead

d. A general who fought in the War of 1812 whose entire command was killed and who wanted to remember them

7. A wreath is laid at Arlington National Cemetery on this day. Where is it placed?

a. Tomb of the Unknowns

b. Near the eternal flame of John F. Kennedy’s grave

c. At the Korean War Memorial

d. At the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial

 8. In 1984, what happened at that place where the wreath is placed?

a. The last unknown soldier, who fought in Vietnam, was buried there but he was later identified. Because of advances in DNA testing, it is likely no further unknowns will be buried at the tomb.

b. An overzealous nun, sprinkling holy water on Kennedy’s grave, put out the eternal flame, so it was replaced with an electric candle

c. The tensions between North and  South Korea escalated to the point that the memorial could no longer safely be used for ceremonies.

d. The plans for the Roosevelt memorial had to be redrawn because the president was depicted in a wheelchair. This delayed the ceremony that year.

9. On what day was Memorial Day celebrated until the latter half of the 20th century

a.  May 1

b. May 30

c. July 3

d. June 14

10. When was the law changed to make the day the last Monday in May?

a. 1955

b. 1963

c. 1971

d. 1988


1. c

2. b

3. c, 1866

4. b.


6. b

7. a

8. a

9. b

10. c

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

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