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From farmer’s markets and parades to county fairs and annual plant sales, Memorial Day weekend in the Northeast Kingdom marks the unofficial start of summer.

But it is also a time when the nation gathers to pay tribute to veterans who have died in war. The origins of this national holiday reportedly go back to May 5, 1868, three years following the end of the Civil War, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans under the leadership of Major General John A. Logan, established Decoration Day, to be observed each year on May 30. Chosen with the idea that by the end of the month, flowers would be in bloom across the country, the goal was to set time aside to decorate the graves of the war dead and reflect on their sacrifices. At Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., Union General Ulysses S. Grant presided over a solemn ceremony outside of the former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, after which the 5,000 attendees sang hymns and placed flowers and American flags on the graves of soldiers who fought on both sides of the conflict.