Memorial Day is a time for remembrance, so what’s with all the mattress sales?

commemoration day was first commonly observed on May 30, 1868 to mourn and honor the soldiers who died during the Civil War. After the United States’ involvement in World War I and World War II, the holiday became the common day of remembrance we know today, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

But the holiday has since evolved into something else as well.

Today, the national moment is also often associated with blowout deals and discounts, particularly on mattresses – a phenomenon that can come across as somewhat odd at best and downright offensive at worst. How did it happen?

Check out our timeline below to trace Memorial Day’s evolution from Civil War-era “Decoration Day” to modern retail extravaganza.

Related: Make a personal connection until Honour the fallen this Memorial Day


The first formal village-wide annual Memorial Day ceremony to commemorate fallen soldiers will be held on May 5 in Waterloo, New York† The city considers itself ‘the birthplace of Memorial Day’.


General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic proclaims the first day of the national commemoration, in honor of the sacrifices of soldiers from the Civil War. After the speech by former Union General James Garfield at Arlington National Cemetery during the first national celebration, some 5,000 in attendance helped decorate the more than 20,000 graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.

At present, the holiday is called “Decoration Day” – so named for that same tradition of visiting the cemetery to decorate graves with flowers, wreaths and flags.


New York State names the national moment and public holidayand other states soon to follow.


The festive tide is quickly beginning to turn; less than a decade after the first celebration of the holiday, some are accused of lacking due respect for the military service of the fallen heroes. “The old pathos and solemnity of the act have also disappeared, except in very quiet rural places,” said the New Yorker Stand wrote in 1875.

Just a few years later, in 1878, the publication again pointed to shifting sentiment regarding the federal holiday: “It would be futile to deny that as individual grief for the fallen fades, the day gradually loses meaning. holiday aspect will remain; how long the political character of the celebration will linger, we dare not guess.”

Related: Do you want to generate buzz? make your own Holidays


The Great Army of the Republic encourages people call the holiday “Memorial Day” instead of “Decoration Day,” but the new title is slowly catching on, given the Memorial Day tradition it started in 1868.


US Congress adopts a resolution declaring the day a public holiday for all per diem officials.

late twenties

radio stations take root in big cities, and companies waste no time using it for commercial purposes in the US


Congress declares the day a national holiday, and “Memorial Day” is becoming more common – although the name will not be officially adopted by the US government until 1967.

late 40s

Cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are functioning local television stations† Both national commercials with a high production value and local, low-budget advertisements are making their appearance.


Congress signs law de Uniform Monday Holiday Act, with Washington’s birthdays, Memorial Day and Labor Day permanently moved to a Monday. The law also establishes Columbus Day as a federal holiday, which must also be permanently celebrated on a Monday.


Three years later, on January 1, 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act comes into effect.

Now that there’s officially a three-day weekend, Americans have some extra free time. Some take the opportunity to travel and spend money. Others may choose to stay closer to home – and spend money too.

It seems advertisers quickly picked up on the trend that Memorial Day (and the other holidays signed into the three-day weekend law) had begun. After all, when people have free time and money to burn, what better way to attract them than with tempting discounts and promotions?

the 1990s

cyberspace offers marketers a new frontier. As email penetrates the mainstream and communications become more direct than ever before, advertisers can deftly target specific groups of potential buyers — bringing back a level of personalization that fell by the wayside in the mass media era, but has begun to resurface. with the rise of cable television and channels aimed at certain audiences.

Related: Earn 60% More Engagement With These 9 Email List Segmenting Strategies

Mid 2000s-present

The proliferation of various social media sites and apps, beginning with MySpace in 2003, transforming a year later with Facebook, and eventually evolving into the dominant players we have today, including Instagram and TikTok, offers advertisers yet another opportunity to deliver targeted advertising. especially if influencers join the conversation.

So… what about those mattresses?

We’ve found that people are more likely to travel and shop—and thus spend money—when they have a day off, but why does it seem like mattress sales take center stage this time of year?

Well, it turns out it might be just that – the time of year.

Almost 40 million Americans move every year, and more than half of them will move between May and September. That means once spring arrives (and Memorial Day with it), about 24 million people are likely to think about an impending move, which comes with all the usual considerations: what to keep and what to remove.

For those adding a bedroom or simply wanting an upgrade, the Memorial Day mattress sale is an excellent opportunity to pick up a bargain on what can be a very expensive item. It is also an important purchase, despite Research that shows that Americans spend an average of 36 years in bed over the course of their lives, three in four Americans think their bed could be more comfortable.

Related: 8 reasons why sleep is crucial for entrepreneurs and leaders

And there you have it: From the American Civil War to the present day, how honorable fallen heroes turned into the mattress-filled Memorial Day we know today.

Despite the intense commercialization of Memorial Day Weekend, it’s still a great opportunity to observe some of those past Memorial Day traditions — or new ones that help serve that original purpose of remembrance.