Here’s what Memorial Day weekend has looked like since it became an official holiday in 1971

Memorial Day began in 1971.

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Memorial Day began in 1971.
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Jon Levy/ Getty

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, as people flock to beaches, barbecues, and parties.

But the holiday wasn’t always about celebration and a long weekend. The holiday was originally named Decoration Day and was a day to honor the soldiers who died in the Civil War. It was celebrated on May 30. It wasn’t until 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, that the holiday was moved to the last Monday in May.

In 1971, Memorial Day finally became a national holiday that honors soldiers who died while defending the country.

The traditions of the holiday haven’t changed much throughout the years, as people continue to soak in the spring weather and celebrate another day off with friends and family.


In 1971, a woman enjoyed her Memorial Day weekend with a bike ride, as Denver closed down roads near parks so people could enjoy their day.

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Woman biking.
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Duane Howell/ Getty

Today, roads aren’t the only things that close on Memorial Day weekend. For example, government offices and even some schools close their doors to honor veterans.


Memorial Day weekend traffic at the Holland Tunnel in New York was a reality even back in 1975.

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Traffic at the Holland Tunnel.
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New York Post Archives/ Getty

In 2019, 43 million people are expected to travel during Memorial Day weekend.


In 1975, two children played on an abandoned mattress in the warm Memorial Day weather.

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Children in 1975 during Memorial Day Weekend.
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Denver Post/ Getty

Memorial Day has always been a day for families to have fun and be relaxed.


In 1973, however, the Coney Island beach was empty because of the cold and rainy weather.

Memorial Day in New York City in 1973 was colder than usual.


Though the skies were grey, some still tried to go to the beach that year.

Throughout the weekend, there was some rain and drizzle, but many still tried to enjoy their time off.


The campgrounds at some of the biggest state parks were overcrowded in 1978 over the holiday weekend, having to turn many people away.

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Campsite closed during Memorial Day weekend.
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Ed Maker/ Getty

The state parks are still considered a great way to spend your Memorial Day weekend.


For those who got into the campsites in ’78, they were able to enjoy the weekend by the campfire.

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Campers during Memorial Day weekend.
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Ed Maker/ Eddy

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer season, allowing many to reconnect with nature after the long winter months. Camping is the perfect way to do just that.


Other than the beach and traveling, the biggest Memorial Day activity has always been barbecuing.

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People enjoy their Memorial Day barbecue.
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Nina Leen/ Getty

There are 818 hot dogs consumed every second from Memorial Day to Labor Day, according to WalletHub, and in 2019, 60% of people are planning to have a barbecue over the holiday weekend.


A couple tied the knot aboard a hot air balloon during Memorial Day weekend in 1981.

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Memorial Day weekend hot air balloon ride.
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Denver Post/ Getty

Memorial Day weekend is considered one of the best times of the year to say “I do.”


Also in 1981, a person was caught taking a break from moving homes during the holiday weekend.

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A person sleeping during Memorial Day weekend.
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John Sunderland/ Getty

For most, Memorial Day weekend means an extended weekend, allowing many to nap or take care of bigger tasks.


Three women enjoy the warmer weather on a New York City rooftop during the holiday weekend in 1984.

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Women bathing during Memorial Day weekend.
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New York Daily News Archive/ Getty

Lounging out in the sun is a typical Memorial Day activity.


In 1982, southern California had a bright and sunny Memorial Day weekend, with many flocking to the beach.

The beach is one of the best places to spend Memorial Day weekend.


Some even come to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC during the holiday weekend, like this family in 1983.

The World War II Memorial in Washington DC is also a popular destination during the holiday.


In 1990, President George H.W. Bush attended a Memorial Day parade in Maine.

Parades are common on Memorial Day throughout the country, and it’s a great way to honor fallen soldiers.


The following year, in 1991, President George H.W. Bush was spotted again in Maine during the holiday weekend. But this time he was fishing on a boat.

The holiday weekend is the perfect time for many outdoor activities, including fishing, hiking, and swimming.


In 1996, some people traveled to Venice Beach in California to enjoy entertainment and the warm weather during the holiday weekend.

Years later, Venice Beach is still a popular Memorial Day weekend destination, with an entire schedule of activities.


In 1996, this family remembered those we’ve lost.

Memorial Day isn’t always about sunshine and barbecues.


For some, the weekend is about having fun in general, like this boy in 1997.

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Boy plays with silly string in 1997.
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The Boston Globe/ Getty

It’s the perfect time to reconnect with friends and family to have a bit of outdoor fun.


Boy scouts in Kentucky have been placing American flags at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend for decades, like this boy in 1997.

In 2018, 6,000 Scouts placed 90,000 flags at the graveyard.


In New York, there’s a different tradition. Every Memorial Day weekend is Fleet Week where Navy sailors dock at the West Side Piers and take in the city, like in this photo from 1999.

When the sailors de-board the ships, people are able to explore the ships and learn about the Navy. It’s still a popular Memorial Day weekend tradition today.


Sailors have been coming to New York during Memorial Day weekend for years.

Sailors visiting New York.


At the turn of the century, Memorial Day weekend continued to be a popular travel weekend.

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RVs lined up during Memorial Day weekend in 2000.
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Bryan Chan/ Getty

Memorial Day has long been cause for traffic headaches.


Memorial Day has been largely unchanged throughout the years. Many still choose to travel and brave the crowds.

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Busy Grand Central during Memorial Day.
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Anadolu Agency/ Getty

Grand Central is one of the busier Memorial Day hubs, connecting urban New Yorkers to surrounding suburbs.


Some still flock to the beach to enjoy the first summer rays …

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Ocean City Beach on Memorial Day.
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The Washington Post/ Getty

The beach has long been one of the top destinations for Memorial Day weekend.


… while others choose to spend time outdoors elsewhere with family.

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Children’s baseball game during Memorial Day weekend.
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Elliot Fine/ Getty

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of all summertime activities.


Of course, for American soldiers, Memorial Day has a meaning all its own.

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Solider places a flag at a gravestone.
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Getty

In the end, Memorial Day is about remembering those who fought for our country, and that has been the holiday’s longest running tradition.