Remembrance Day is a memorial day that’s observed in the Commonwealth of Nations — a political association of 54 member states. This holiday has been observed since the end of WWI and is a day on which people are encouraged to remember all those soldiers and sailors who have died in the line of duty.
In most countries where this holiday is observed, it’s observed on November 11th in remembrance of when World War I ended on November 11, 1918. This is a holiday that has grown out of the holiday Armistice Day and is sometimes called Poppy Day in some countries.
The History Of Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day is a memorial day that can be traced back to Armistice Day, so it’s only fitting that we should begin the exploration of this holiday by going back to the original memorial day. Armistice Day marked the armistice that was signed between Allies and Germany during WWI.
This armistice was signed at Compiegne, France at 5:45 am to take place on the 11th hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. This original armistice would end approximately 36 days but was extended several times. However, a formal peace agreement wouldn’t be done until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.
In France, Armistice Day is a national holiday and it was originally declared a holiday in many of the Allied nations of WWI. However, most of these countries have changed the name from Armistice Day. Members of the Commonwealth have adopted the name Remembrance Day for this holiday, and the U.S. has adopted Veterans Day.
Armistice Day was originally observed at Buckingham Palace. King George V hosted a banquet in honor of the President of the French Republic during the evening of November 10, 1919. The following morning, the first official Armistice Day was held on Buckingham Palace’s grounds.
Remembrance Day would retain the name Armistice Day until World War II, this is when many countries of the Commonwealth chose Remembrance Day and the U.S. chose Veteran’s Day
Remembrance Day Observances Around The World
Since Remembrance Day isn’t a holiday that can be claimed by one country but is a memorial day that’s observed all over the world, the ways in which it’s observed are as varied as the countries observing it.
Although it’s impossible to list all of the observations of this holiday, we would like to cover some of the ways it’s observed around the world. This is what we’re going to attempt to do in this section of the holiday.
Observance In The Commonwealth
The common tradition in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa includes a one to two-minute silence that’s observed at the eleventh hour of November 11, which is 11 am. That marks the time in the UK that the armistice officially became effective in 1918.
In a lot of countries, the two-minute period of silence is preceded by the sounding of the Last Post — a bugle call that’s primarily used by Australian and British infantry regiments.
After the period of silence, there’s usually a sound of the military bugle called “The Rouse” or “Reveille.” The services are then concluded with a recitation of the “Ode of Remembrance.” During the service, a variety of songs are often played and these songs can include “Jerusalem,” “Flowers of the Forest,” “I Vow To Thee, My Country,” and “O Valiant Hearts.”
Most services also include the laying of wreaths, various blessings, and national anthems. Regardless of the day of the week, Remembrance Day is always observed on November 11th in Australia.
This day isn’t a public holiday, so most businesses remain open on this day. Institutions all over the country observe the 2 minutes of silence at 11 am and children may read the “Pledge of Remembrance” by Rupert McCall.
In the past few years, Remembrance Day services have declined and have been eclipsed by ANZAC Day — a day that falls on April 25th is a public holiday in all states, and is a national day of remembrance for Australia.
Observances In Canada
Remembrance Day, also known as Jour du Souvenir in French, is a statutory holiday in six of the ten provinces of Canada and in all three provinces. Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec do not treat Remembrance Day as an official holiday, and Nova Scotia recognizes it under the provincial Remembrance Day Act.
Official national ceremonies occur at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and are presided over by the Governor-General of Canada. The Canadian Prime Minister is also in attendance, along with public observers, dignitaries, and the Silver Cross Mother.
The Silver Cross Mother is chosen every year by the Royal Canadian Legion and is tasked with laying the wreath for the Remembrance Day ceremony on behalf of all mothers who have lost children in the service of their country.
Observances In India
In India, Remembrance Day is observed with memorial services in churches such as St. John’s Church and St. Mark’s Cathedral. Ceremonies and tributes are also observed in army cantonments. This day is also observed at cemeteries all over India.
Observances In New Zealand
New Zealand’s “remembrance day” is actually ANZAC Day — which is observed on the 25th of April. The Friday before this holiday, the day Poppy Day is usually observed. The holiday is celebrated in this way because of an event that occurred in 1921.
In that year, the paper poppies destined for Armistice celebrations that year didn’t arrive in time for the November 11 celebration, so they were distributed on April 25, 1922, instead.
Observances In South Africa
Remembrance Day isn’t a public holiday in South Africa. Commemoration ceremonies are usually held on the nearest Sunday. These ceremonies usually begin with the playing of the “Last Post” by a bugler and that is then followed by the obligatory 2 minutes of silence.
Observances In Belgium & France
In both Belgium and France, Remembrance Day is a national holiday. This holiday commemorates the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany. Armistice Day is one of the most important of all French military celebrations since it was a French victory. On this day, just about every French village has a memorial that’s dedicated to those who have fallen during WWI.
Observances In Germany
The anniversary of the Armistice is not observed in any way or shape in Germany. Their national day of mourning and remembrance is the public holiday of Volkstrauertag. This holiday has been observed since 1952. The observation is held two Sundays before the first Sunday of Advent.
Observances In Hong Kong
Remembrance Day hasn’t been a holiday in Hong Kong since 1997, but Remembrance Sunday is still observed. This day is observed by multi-faith memorial services at the Cenotaph in the central business district of Hong Kong.
There are also services held at various churches all over Hong Kong including services offered by the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Buddhist community, the Taoist community, and the Muslim and Sikh communities.
Observances In Ireland
Neither Armistice Day nor Remembrance Day is a public holiday in Ireland. The National Day of Commemoration in Ireland is observed in July on the Sunday closest to July 11th. However, even though Remembrance Day isn’t an official public holiday, it is observed by various ceremonies across the country. One of the biggest ceremonies is held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
Observances In Israel
In Israel, two different ceremonies are held. The first one is at the British War Cemetery in Jerusalem on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday. The other ceremony is on Remembrance Sunday in Ramleh.
Observances In Italy
Soldiers are remembered in Italy on November 4th. This is when the day after the Armistice of Villa Giusti was signed on November 3, 1918. This day is known as Giorno dell’Unità Nazionale Giornata delle Forze Armate or Day of National Unity Day of the Armed Forces in English.
Observances In Netherlands
A remembrance day is held in the Netherlands but it’s not on November 11th. This country’s holiday for remembering the fallen is called Remembrance Of The Dead and it’s observed annually on May 4th. It isn’t a public holiday, but it is observed with various ceremonies. One of the main ceremonies in the Netherlands is Waalsdorpervlakte near The Hague and Dam Square in Amsterdam.
Observances In Poland
November 11th is celebrated in Poland as Independence Day. The end of WWI allowed the Polish people to reunite their country after over 120 years of partition and gain their freedom. Ceremonies are held all over Poland, and some of the major ceremonies observed on this day include laying flowers on the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. Other ceremonies may include church services, school celebrations, and local memorials.
Observances In The United States
In the U.S., November 11th is not observed as Remembrance Day but is instead observed as Veteran’s Day. This day is not only a state holiday in many U.S. states but is also a holiday at the federal level. Before 1954, this holiday was known as Armistice Day, as it was in other parts of the world, but the name was changed to Veterans Day at the end of the Korean War to celebrate all veterans.