Thirty-nine years ago this weekend, the United States celebrated its first Memorial Day as an official federal holiday. Hard to believe that it took so long for such a holiday commemorating the U.S. men and women who died while in military service to become official, but it did. The holiday original began in the 1860s to honor the Union soldiers of the American Civil War and was then known as Decoration Day. Many states of the U.S. South refused to celebrate Decoration Day. The alternative name of Memorial Day was first used in 1882 and did not become more common until after World War II. It became the official name by Federal law in 1967 and by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday. The act took effect in 1971.