Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May (observed in 2008 on May 26). It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911. It is also traditionally viewed as the beginning of summer by many, for many schools are dismissed around Memorial Day.
Given its origins in the American Civil War, Memorial Day is not a holiday outside the United States. Countries of the British Commonwealth, as well as France and Belgium, honor members of the military who died in war on Remembrance Day, on or around November 11, the date on which World War I came to an end in 1918. The U.S. observes that date as Veterans Day (originally Armistice Day), which honors all veterans, living and dead.