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The first Decoration Day was observed in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, though this was the first national observance many small towns all across the north and south starting around 1866, claimed to be the first to hold a Decoration Day in their towns. It wasn’t until 1966 that an official Memorial Day was declared. Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the birthplace of Memorial Day after a ceremony that was held on May 5, 1866 which honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed for the day and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were informal, not community-wide or one-time events whereas Waterloo held theirs every year since in May.
Many state legislatures passed proclamations designating May 30th as Memorial Day but it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress declared Memorial Day as the last Monday in May. Some do still call it Decoration Day as well.