Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor the dead soldiers from the Civil War. However, it did not become a federal holiday until 1967. When the academic year used to run through June at Notre Dame, students and faculty members participated in local parades and held ceremonies for the fallen military members of the Notre Dame community at the cemeteries.
The ceremonies at Notre Dame included the recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, addresses by students and patriotic songs, and a requiem mass. In 1925, Notre Dame created a memorial to her students who died in World War I at the east door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which bears the epitaph “God, Country, Notre Dame.” Through World War II, Memorial Day Masses and ceremonies were held outside of this door.
The change in the academic year to end in May and the observance of Memorial Day as a national holiday leaves campus rather quiet.