05/23/2013 09:41 am ET Updated May 23, 2013

Memorial Day In D.C.: A Look At Celebrations Around The District Throughout The Years (PHOTOS)

Library of Congress

For many, Memorial Day is a three-day weekend that serves as the ceremonial start to summer. Many D.C. area residents flock to the beaches in Delaware and Maryland to spend some lazy time in the sun.

But the history of Memorial Day in D.C. goes much further back than your annual beach house rental tradition. It reaches back as far as 1868, when General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic declared May 30 of that year to be "Decoration Day," for, in his words, "the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion."

That first Decoration Day the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers were covered with flowers at Arlington National Cemetery. Notable American politicians, like Congressman and future President James A. Garfield, gave speeches to a large crowd at the cemetery amphitheater.

We've put together a slideshow of the history of Memorial Day in D.C., dating back to that first "Decoration Day" -- story continues below:

D.C. Memorial Days Throughout History

"Memorial Day" became the common name of the holiday in 1882, but was only officially designated in 1967. By 1971, Memorial Day was moved from May 30 to the last Monday in the month of May.

Since that first holiday, Memorial Day celebrations in the District have evolved: a full parade marches down Constitution Avenue, Rolling Thunder motorcyclists drive through the city as atribute to American war heroes and the National Memorial Day Concert by the National Symphony Orchestra on the Capitol West lawn are marked changes.

And don't forget to check out our guide to Memorial Day events going on around D.C. this year and our guide to the best Memorial Day food around the District.

Rolling Thunder 2012
Memorial Day 2012