The holiday was first established at Decoration Day in 1868 as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Smaller local events had been held as early as 1866, the year after the war ended.
Following the First World War, the holiday expanded to include the honoring of the dead from all American wars. In 1971, Congress established the official date of Memorial Day as the last Monday in May. Previously, it had been celebrated on May 30 each year.
Many New Jersey communities will hold Memorial Day events this weekend. Here are some in Union and Middlesex counties:
Carteret will hold a Memorial Day ceremony at Waterfront Park at 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 27. The borough’s Veterans of Foreign Wars will hold its own ceremony in front of Carteret Library at 100 Cooke Avenue. The annual Memorial Day parade will begin at 1 p.m. at the Doc Fenick Clock Tower by Carteret High School, and wrapping up at the Memorial Municipal Building at 61 Cooke Avenue. There will be a town barbecue following the parade.
Clark’s Memorial Day Parade will be dedicated to the memory of Sgt. James W. Harvey II, a township native who was killed in action on June 20, 2011 while serving in Afghanistan. The parade will step off at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, May 28. It will be followed immediately afterward by a service in front of Arthur L. Johnson High School, 365 Westfield Avenue.
Edison will be holding its 50th annual Memorial Day parade on Sunday, May 27, beginning at 1 p.m. The parade, hosted by VFW Post #3117, will begin on Division Street and continue along Plainfield Avenue to Jefferson Boulevard before ending at Post #435 on Oakland Avenue. The reviewing stand will be on Plainfield Avenue at Seymour Avenue.
The Borough of Fanwood will host a special Memorial Day concert, “A Tribute to Fallen Heroes,” at the north side of the railroad station on Sunday, May 27, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Metuchen’s Memorial Day parade will start at 10 a.m. from the Pearl Street lot. The route goes from Center Street, right on to Middlesex Avenue, right on to Main Street through town, then right on to High Street, then right on to Lake Avenue, ending at Memorial Park. There will be a ceremony immediately following the parade at Memorial Park, and American Legion Post #65 on Lake Avenue will host a post-parade picnic with free refreshments. Metuchen residents are invited to bring a decorated bicycle, carriage, wagon or stroller to the Pearl Street parking lot by 9:45 a.m. and be part of the parade.
Monroe will hold three Memorial Day services at different locations on Monday, May 28. There will be a wreath laying at the Veterans’ Monument at the Triangle Memorial on Spotswood-Englishtown Rd./Monmouth Rd. at 8:30 a.m. At 9:15 a.m., there will be a wreath laying at the Veterans’ Monument at the Monroe Township Municipal Complex. There will be a ceremonial groundbreaking service at the Veterans’ Memorial at Veterans’ Park on Avenue K, off of Old Forge Road, at 10 a.m.
North Brunswick will hold its 33rd annual Memorial Day 5K Run / Walk on Monday, May 28, at 8:30 a.m. The race will be held in North Brunswick Community Park, Route 130 South. Check-in starts at 7:30 a.m. Immediately following the race, there will be a ceremony to honor U.S. veterans beginning at approximately 10:30 a.m.
Perth Amboy’s Memorial Day Parade will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 28 at the Public Safety Complex Parking Lot, 365 New Brunswick Avenue, and will proceed to Sadowski Parkway. It will be followed by a ceremony at the Veterans’ War Memorial on Sadowski Parkway at 11 a.m.
Rahway’s Memorial Day parade is set for 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 27. It will begin at Rahway City Hall on Main Street, proceeding west on Milton Avenue, north on Pierpont Street, east on Elm Avenue, north on Irving Street and south on Main Street until it passes the reviewing stand at City Hall and disperses.
Roselle’s Memorial Day Parade is planned for Monday, May 28, and will kick-off at 10 a.m., rain or shine. The parade route begins at East 2nd and Harrison avenues, and ends at the Roselle Free Public Library at West 4th Avenue.
Sayreville will hold a Memorial Day service at the Sayreville-South River Bridge at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 28. The annual parade will start at 10 a.m., beginning from Elizabeth Street and continuing down Washington Road. It will culminate with ceremonies in front of Borough Hall at 167 Main Street.
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Memorial Day Parade will begin at 10:45 a.m. on Monday, May 28. It will start at the Municipal Building in Scotch Plains, proceed along Park Avenue, move down Martine Avenue into the center of Fanwood and end at La Grande Park.
Summit’s Memorial Day parade will start at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 28. It will begin on Beechwood Road by the Bouras Building, continue to Springfield Avenue to Maple Street and on to the Village Green. There will be a short ceremony following the parade, and the Elks Club will offer hot dogs and drinks to those who attend.
Woodbridge will dedicate a new gazebo at Charlie Shaughnessy Park on Inman Aveneu in Colonia and rename Jordan Avenue to “CPL Kevin Reinhard Way” at noon on Saturday, May 26. On Monday, May 28, the Keasbey Fire Department will hold a Memorial Day parade and service at the Keasbey War Memorial Monument Park. The parade begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Keasbey Fire Department, 420 Smith Street. It will march to the park for the 8 a.m. service.
Avenel VFW Memorial Post #7164 will hold a Memorial Day service at 10 a.m. at the Headquarters, 60 West Park Avenue, Avenel. Iselin VFW Memorial Post #2636 will hold its service outside post headquarters on Auth Avenue in Iselin at 11 a.m.