The last Monday in May has, since 1971, marked the celebration of Memorial Day in the United States. In the past, we’ve told you some of the best ways to spend the holiday, but today we take a look at some photos of Memorial Day through the years in New York.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the upstate New York town of Waterloo to be the birthplace of the holiday, originally known as Decoration Day to commemorate soldiers lost in the Civil War.

Decoration Day, 1875 at Broadway and Bond Street. Photo from New York Public Library.

Southern states refused to celebrate the holiday until after World War I and not until after World War II was Memorial Day widely celebrated and known by its current name.

The Maine Monument on its unveiling, May 30th, 1913, photo via Library of Congress

The holiday was traditionally celebrated on May 30th until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act on June 28th, 1968, which moved Memorial Day and three other holidays to Mondays. Some groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War advocate a return to its original date, claiming that the three-day weekend has diminished the meaning of the day.

In cities across the country, solemn and respectful services are held at memorial sites while parades line the streets. The oldest running Memorial Day Parade is held every year in Kings County, Brooklyn.

Today, there are hundreds of ways to spend Memorial Day in NYC, from simple barbecues in the backyard to outdoor concerts and parades. And while it is a day to celebrate, we should never forget to give thanks to those whose lives we honor on this day.

369th Regiment Return from World War 1
Children in Harlem celebrate the return of the famous 369th Regiment following World War I, photo via National Archives
A volunteer taking soldiers’ hats during a party in the 1940’s, photo via Library of Congress.

The author can be reached via twitter @jimipage26

Next, check out 10 War Memorials in NYC