Many people are looking forward to the three-day Memorial Day weekend. It has been predicted that 32 million people plan to travel miles away, but others intend to stay home and celebrate with family members and close friends.

Even though people know it is a federal holiday, they might not know much more about it than that. Here are five more things people should know about Memorial Day and why it is celebrated in the United States.

1. Federal holiday

Memorial Day is an official federal holiday observed to remember those who died while serving the country.

Long ago, the day was to honor only soldiers who died in the Civil War. Today, the celebration is for everyone who died in any war while serving in the military. It is also observed by others who visit the graves of their loved ones no matter how they died.

2. Date

The holiday is celebrated on the last Monday in May no matter what the date is. This year, it is celebrated on Monday, May 28. It was once observed on May 30 even if it was not the last Monday in the month.

Government offices, banks, post offices, and schools are closed.

People with American flags should fly them at half-mast until noon and raise them to full mast until sunset.

3. Original name

The holiday has not always been called by its current name. It was first called Decoration Day because Americans decorated the graves of those who died in the Civil War. Since the 1900s, it has become a day to celebrate all American soldiers who died while serving in the military no matter which war it was.

In 1967, the name was legally changed to what it is today. It became a federal holiday four years later in 1971.

4. Celebrations

Since Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, people celebrate with parades, cookouts, and outings at the beach. In the past, it was a tradition for families to carry a picnic meal to the cemetery where a loved one was buried and eat on the ground there.

That practice never caught on with some people, but some who live in the South still follow that practice today. A more current tradition is for a wreath to be placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery during an official ceremony.

Stores take advantage of people having a day off from work. They offer sales to get people into their stores to buy items. Restaurants offer freebies, specials, and discounted meals on the holiday.

5. Often confused with Veterans Day

Memorial Day is often confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day honors the soldiers who died while serving. However, Veterans Day honors all United States military veterans, including the living ones. Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11 every year.