TIME Military

Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?

This is the real meaning of the holiday

It’s easy to forget what Memorial Day actually means while you’re sitting by the pool and looking ahead at summer vacation—but the day signifies much more than just a three-day weekend.

Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance for everyone who has died serving in the American armed forces. The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, started after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate dead.

It’s unclear exactly where the holiday originated—Charleston, S.C., Waterloo, N.Y., Columbus, Ga. and other towns all claim to be the birthplace of the holiday. The event in Charleston that may have precipitated the holiday offers poignant evidence of a country struggling to rebuild itself after a bloody war: 257 Union soldiers died in prison in Charleston during the Civil War and were buried in unmarked graves, and the town’s black residents organized a May Day ceremony in which they landscaped a burial ground to properly honor the soldiers.

In the years following the Civil War, Memorial Day celebrations were scattered and, perhaps unsurprisingly, took root differently in the North and South. It wasn’t until after World War II that the holiday gained a strong following and national identity, and it wasn’t officially named Memorial Day until 1967.

The final event that cemented the modern culture of Memorial Day in America was in 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act, designating Memorial Day as the last Monday in May rather than May 30, as it had previously been observed. This ensured a three-day weekend and gave the day its current status as the unofficial beginning of summer, mixing serious reflection with more lighthearted fun.

TIME Holidays

How Countries Around the World Celebrate Memorial Day

Beyond hot dogs

Americans will break out the flags, hot dogs and red, white and blue apparel to celebrate Memorial Day on Monday. But while they aren’t all on the same date, countries around the world have their own days and traditions to commemorate fallen soldiers.

Here’s how five other nations celebrate their versions of Memorial Day.

Australia and New Zealand—Anzac Day

Anzac Day, April 25, is the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the World War I. The day begins with commemorative services at dawn, followed by marches of former military men and women. People also play two-up on Anzac Day, a gambling game that involves betting on which way pennies will land on the table that was often played by Australian soldiers in World War I.

The Netherlands—Dodenherdenking

Dodenherdenking, which means “remembrance of the dead” in Dutch, is held every year on May 4, and celebrates all civilians and military members from the Netherlands who have died in conflicts since World War II. The main ceremony of the day is observed in Amsterdam at the National Monument on Dam Square, attended by the royal family. At 8 p.m., two minutes of silence are observed throughout the country; even public transportation is halted.

England—Remembrance Day

Celebrated on Nov. 11, Remembrance Day marks the end of fighting in World War I. It is celebrated throughout the British Commonwealth, but in England, the British Royal Family assembles outside for two minutes of silence beginning at 11 a.m. Poppies have become the symbol of the day in England; wreaths of them are laid at war memorials and small artificial ones are worn on clothing.

Belgium—Armistice Day

Belgium also celebrates the end of World War I on Nov. 11. The nation holds a Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. The Last Post was a bugle call played by armies to mark the end of the day, and it is now used by the country to remember fallen soldiers. At the end of the ceremony, people lay wreaths of poppies and the flowers are released from the top of the gate.


After a brief period when the Nazi propaganda machine changed Germany’s day of remembrance to a day of hero worship, the nation went back to celebrating Volkstrauertag as a solemn honoring of the dead. Celebrated on whichever Sunday falls closest to Nov. 16, on Volkstrauertag the President of Germany gives a speech alongside the Chancellor, the cabinet and the diplomatic corps. The national anthem and the song “Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden” (“I had a comrade”) are played in the national ceremony, and in local provinces veterans often march from their churches to war memorials.

TIME animals

These Are the Top 10 New Species Discovered Last Year

Including a frog that gives birth to live tadpoles

Scientists named 18,000 new species in 2014—but these 10 are a notch above the rest.

From a spider that cartwheels away from its predators to a frog that gives birth to live tadpoles, the newly discovered animals on the top 10 list compiled by an international committee of taxonomists at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry each have something that stands out.

The list is released each year to honor the May 23 birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, an 18th-century Swedish botanist who is considered the father of modern taxonomy.

“The Top 10 is a reminder of the wonders awaiting us,” said Dr. Quentin Wheeler, ESF president and founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration.

  • Feathered Dinosaur

    Mark A. Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

    Dubbed the “chicken from hell,” the feathered dinosaur, anzu wyliei, made nests and sat on eggs until they hatched. It was a contemporary of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and lived in North America, and it had many bird-like qualities including hollow bones, feathers and a beak.

  • Coral Plant

    P.B. Pelser & J.F. Barcelona

    The coral plant was immediately dubbed endangered when it was discovered last year. That’s because scientists have only discovered about 50 instances of this parasitic plant, which has branching, above-ground tubers that resemble coral. All of the plants were found between specific elevations on the southwestern side of Mt. Mingan in the Philippines.

  • Cartwheeling Spider

    Prof. Dr. Ingo Rechenberg, Technical University Berlin

    This desert spider from Morocco has a speedy way to run from danger: it cartwheels. The cartwheeling is a last resort. First the spider assumes a threatening posture. If that doesn’t work, it will run away, and if that still isn’t fast enough the arachnid can spin and cartwheel its way across the sand.

  • X-Phyla

    Jørgen Olesen

    The X-Phyla are the so-called “mysterious newcomers” of the group. That’s because these mushroom-like creatures are possibly related to the phylum Cnidaria, which contains jellyfish, corals, and sea anemones, but they are missing some unique properties, which means they could represent an entirely new phylum. So stay tuned on the X-Phyla.

  • Bone-house Wasp

    Michael Staab

    The bone-house wasp is on the list for a morbid reason: she feeds and protects her young with carcasses of other dead insects. The female bone-house wasps, found in Eastern China, construct nests that have multiple chambers. The female kills and deposits spiders in each cell to provide food for her babies, then seals off the front door of the nest with bodies of dead ants. The chemicals from the dead ants mask the scent of her larvae from potential enemies.

  • Indonesian Frog

    Jimmy A. McGuire

    The Indonesian frog made the list because, unlike most other frog species, it does not lay eggs. Instead, it gives birth to live tadpoles, which are deposited in the water. Less than 12 of the world’s 6,455 frog species have internal fertilization, and the Indonesian frog is the only one that gives birth to tadpoles; the others either lay fertilized eggs or give birth to frogs.

  • Walking Stick

    Dr. Bruno Kneubühler

    The walking stick is the newest member of a family known as giant sticks. Given that this species was just discovered, despite being 9 inches long and living in a national park in Vietnam frequented by entomologists, it shows that there could be many other camouflaged giant sticks that are yet undiscovered. These new walking sticks aren’t the biggest in the family: that title belongs to Chan’s megastick, which measures 22 inches.

  • Sea Slug

    Robert Bolland

    This new species of sea slug, which photographs beautifully in shades of blue, red and gold and lives in Japan, is a missing link between the sea slugs that feed on hydroids and those that feed on corals.

  • Bromeliad

    A. Espejo

    Tillandsia religiosa, a red and green bromeliad plant found in Mexico, was officially recognized by science last year, but it had long been known to locals in the region. Its festive coloring meant the bromeliad was often used in altar scenes assembled by villagers around Christmas.

  • Pufferfish

    Yoji Okata

    This new species of pufferfish solved a decades-old underwater mystery. Scientists had seen crop circle-type etchings in the undersea sand off the coast of Japan but didn’t know what was creating the geometric designs, about 6 feet in diameter. It turns out they are made by this fish and used as spawning nests. The designs both attract females and minimize the ocean current at the center.

TIME discoveries

First Dinosaur Bone Found in Washington State

Dr. Christian Sidor (right), Burke Museum curator of vertebrate paleontology, and Brandon Peecook (left), University of Washington graduate student, show the size and placement of the fossil fragment compared to the cast of a Daspletosaurus femur.
Burke Museum Dr. Christian Sidor (right), Burke Museum curator of vertebrate paleontology, and Brandon Peecook (left), University of Washington graduate student, show the size and placement of the fossil fragment compared to the cast of a Daspletosaurus femur.

The bone was discovered in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle

A piece of a massive thigh bone discovered underwater shows that dinosaurs walked in what is now Washington state.

The 80-million-year-old bone was found in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle, Live Science reports, and it has just been identified as a 17-inch fragment of the femur bone of a theropod. Theropods were a two-legged, mostly carnivorous group of dinosaurs related to modern-day birds. And yes, T. Rex was one (although this bone did not come from a Tyrannosaurus).

It’s unknown what species of dinosaur the bone came from. “That’s it,” Christian Sidor, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington, told Live Science. “We’re lucky we got what we got.”

The bone was found in 2012, but it took scientists about a year and a half to prepare the fossil. This makes Washington the 37th U.S. state with known dinosaur fossils.


TIME Television

Watch Conan O’Brien’s Emotional Tribute to David Letterman

Conan says having Letterman on his show was one of the highlights of his professional career

Conan O’Brien said something on his show Wednesday night that was rather strange for a television host. He told viewers to change the channel, and watch another host’s show instead.

The reason, as O’Brien said, was that Wednesday was “no ordinary night.” It was David Letterman’s last show, which aired during O’Brien’s segment.

“There simply are no words that can encapsulate the sheer magnitude of what Dave has achieved,” O’Brien said. “He’s been the North Star for me and for every comic of my generation.”

O’Brien spoke about the time Letterman came on his show while he was struggling early in his career: “It’s easily one of the happiest nights of my professional life,” he said, saying his career would not have taken off if not for Letterman’s visit.

That was when he told everyone to change the channel. “I’m going to let you know the exact moment when Dave’s show is starting,” he said, telling viewers to record his show so they could switch over to watch Letterman. “You cannot miss out,” he said.

Watch O’Brien’s emotional tribute above.

TIME Cancer

How a Common Childhood Vaccine Helps Ward Off Cancer

It reduces the risk of childhood leukemia by 20%

Scientists now understand why a common childhood vaccine reduces the risk of leukemia.

Researchers previously knew that the vaccine against Haemophilus influenza type B, or HiB, reduces the risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer. But now a new study published in Nature Immunology explains why this is the case.

Dr. Markus Müschen and his team on the study used a mouse model and found that recurring HiB infections, which can happen easily in children who have not been vaccinated, can cause certain enzymes to activate and push common precancerous blood cells into cancer. So, vaccines against HiB infections also protect children from this path to leukemia.

Müschen told the New York Times that the HiB vaccine, which is routinely given to children, has led to a 20% reduction in the risk for leukemia.


TIME Culture

‘Lolz’ And Thousands Of Other Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary

Getty Images

Quinzhee, an Inuit snow shelter, will get you 29 points

It’s obvs that lotsa people are going to use the new words added to the Scrabble dictionary.

“Obvs” and “lotsa” are both among the 6,500 new entries to the Collins Scrabble Word List, along with other slang terms like lolz, shizzle, and ridic, BBC reports.

The highest scoring new word is quinzhee, which will get you 29 points. It’s an Inuit snow shelter.

There’s also a bevy of new words related to technology on the list – facetime, hashtag, sexting and hacktivist are all fair game on the board.

Helen Newstead, head of language content at Collins, explained how Scrabble added so many new words. “Dictionaries have always included formal and informal English, but it used to be hard to find printed evidence of the use of slang words,” she said. “Now people use slang in social media posts, tweets, blogs, comments, text messages – you name it – so there’s a host of evidence for informal varieties of English that simply didn’t exist before.”


TIME Television

Jeremy Clarkson Says Being Fired From Top Gear Was ‘My Own Silly Fault’

The Top Gear presenter was dropped after attacking a producer

Jeremy Clarkson said that being dropped from Top Gear was “my own silly fault.”

The presenter spoke to BBC after losing his job in March after attacking a producer. “I have been at the BBC for 27 years,” he said. “When you emerge after 27 years, you find the world is changed. When you learn how the world works, you can start to work out what to do. In the meantime I’m getting really good at tennis. My forehand has improved immeasurably.”

Top Gear, a BBC car show, is watched by 350 million viewers worldwide according to BBC. The BBC will relaunch the show with new presenters. Meanwhile, Clarkson is beginning a “badly organized world tour” this week with his former Top Gear co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May.

TIME Gadgets

This Origami Drone Folds Up and Fits in Your Pocket

It can unfold and deploy in half a second

For all those who are tired of dealing with those pesky cumbersome drones: finally, here’s one that can fold up and fit in your pocket.

The little, origami-inspired quadcopters can unfold and deploy themselves in half a second, Live Science reports.

Dario Floreano, who led the research on the drone, told Live Science, “You can take it out of the box, switch on the motor, and it’s ready to fly.”

Researchers say they could be used to take photographs and make contact with survivors in disaster zones.

Future models of these drones will be lighter with stronger arms that could withstand crashes, according to Mashable. The current prototype has been patented and will debut May 25 at a robotics conference in Seattle.

TIME medicine

Tylenol During Pregnancy Could Harm Male Babies, Study Shows

It reduces testosterone production in the womb

Taking too much Tylenol during pregnancy could reduce testosterone levels in male babies, according to a new study.

The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, found that prolonged use of acetaminophen, the drug in Tylenol, by a pregnant mother reduced production of testosterone in her unborn son.

The study used mice that carried grafts of human tissue. After one day of exposure to the drug there was no effect on testosterone production, but after seven days the amount of testosterone was down by 45 percent.

Limited testosterone in the womb is related to increased risk of infertility, testicular cancer and undescended testicles.

“We would advise that pregnant women should follow current guidance that the painkiller be taken at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time,” said Rod Mitchell, one of the authors of the study from the University of Edinburgh.

Acetaminophen drugs like Tylenol or Panadol are the most common medicine for managing pain or fevers during pregnancy.

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