One of the best ways to observe the nation’s fallen service members is to donate time, money, and supplies to (living) veterans programs. You can spend time with local veterans, buy a poppy to support the Veterans of Foreign Wars while you watch the parade, and contribute your old stuff to ClothingDonations.org to help fund veterans’ initiatives nationwide. Or—for maximum decluttering and incredible amounts of good karma—you can use the three-day weekend to stage a garage sale, give the proceeds to VVA, and donate whatever doesn’t sell.
Memorial Day has its roots in the springtime observances that began immediately after the end of the Civil War in towns throughout the war-torn country, according to the VA. The first nationwide Decoration Day—a day to honor the dead by decorating their graves with flowers and bunting—was held on May 30, 1868, with its first official observance at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I, Decoration Day expanded to recognize fallen service members of all U.S. wars, but not until 1971 was Memorial Day declared a national holiday.