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Remembrance Day
Cenotaph London.jpg
The Cenotaph at Whitehall, London on Remembrance Day 2004
Official name Remembrance Day
Also called Poppy Day
Observed by Commonwealth of Nations
Type International
Significance Commemorates Commonwealth war dead
Observances Parades, moments of silence
Date November 11
Frequency Annually
Related to Armistice Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Anzac Day

Remembrance Day (also known as Armistice Day or Poppy Day because of the tradition of wearing a remembrance poppy) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of World War I. It is a day set aside to honor armed forces members who have died in the line of duty. In many countries, Remembrance Day is observed on November 11 to remember the end of the fighting in World War I. Fighting formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918, which is when the the armistice was signed. World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.

King George V hosted a "Banquet in Honor of the President of the French Republic" during the evening hours of November 10, 1919. The first official Armistice Day was held on the grounds of Buckingham Palace the next morning. During World War II, many countries changed the name and purpose of the holiday. Member states of the Commonwealth of Nations chose Remembrance Day, while the US chose Veterans Day.

Observance in the Commonwealth

Inflandersfieldslestweforget01
Canadian Poppy pins adorn a memorial at McCrae House in Guelph, Ontario

The common British, Canadian, South African, and ANZAC tradition includes a one- or two-minute silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11:00 am, November 11) since that marks the time (in the United Kingdom) when the armistice became effective.

The Service of Remembrance in many Commonwealth countries generally includes the sounding of various songs, followed by a period of silence, and then the sounding of "Reveille." Services also include wreaths laid to honor the fallen, blessings, and national anthems.

Australia

11 Nov gnangarra-9
The Governor of Western Australia, Malcolm McCusker, laying a wreath at the Eternal flame, Kings Park, Western Australia, November 11, 2011

In Australia, Remembrance Day is always observed on November 11, no matter what day of the week it is. It is not a public holiday but a time when people can pay their respects to soldiers who have died in battle. Some schools have a two-minute silence at 11:00 am. When Remembrance Day falls on a normal working day in Melbourne and other major cities, buglers from the Australian Defence Force often play the "Last Post" at major street corners. Many passers-by stop and observe a moment of silence while waiting for the bugler to finish the recital.

Barbados

In Barbados, Remembrance Day is not a public holiday. It is recognized as November 11, but the parade and ceremonial events happen on Remembrance Sunday. The day is celebrated to recognize the Barbadian soldiers who died fighting in World War I and World War II. The parade is held at National Heroes' Square, where an interdenominational service is held. During the main ceremony, a gun salute, wreath-laying, and prayers are also performed at the war memorial Cenotaph at the heart of Heroes' Square in Bridgetown.

Belize

In Belize, Remembrance Day is observed on November 11. It is not a public holiday.

Bermuda

Rembrance Day Parade Bermuda
Remembrance Day Parade, Hamilton, Bermuda, 1991

In Bermuda, Remembrance Day is still an important holiday. Bermuda sent the first colonial volunteer unit to the Western Front in 1915. It also had more people per capita in uniform during the World War II than any other part of the Empire. The parade in Hamilton remains a large and colorful one.

Canada

WLMK laying wreath
William Lyon Mackenzie King lays a wreath at the future location of the National War Memorial in Canada on Remembrance Day, 1937

In Canada, Remembrance Day (Jour du Souvenir) is a public holiday in all three territories and six of the ten provinces. Nova Scotia recognizes the day separately. Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec do not treat the day as an official holiday in any way.

Remembrance Day 2017 in Ottawa Canada 13
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during a Remembrance Day parade in Ottawa, 2017
Poppies by Benoit Aubry of Ottawa
Remembrance poppies distributed by the Royal Canadian Legion atop the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The official national ceremonies are held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The commemoration begins with the tolling of the carillon in the Peace Tower and ends with people in attendance laying their wreaths at the base of the memorial. In 2000, another tradition began after the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was built. People began placing poppies on the tomb. Similar ceremonies take place in provincial capitals across the country.

In 1994, National Aboriginal Veterans Day was begun to recognize the Aboriginal soldiers. In 2001, Merchant Navy Remembrance Day was created by the Canadian parliament. They set September 3 as a day to recognize the contributions and sacrifice of Canadian merchant mariners.

India

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne leads ‘Remembrance Day’ tribute, in Delhi on November 13, 2011
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal N. A. K. Browne leads a Remembrance Day tribute in New Delhi, November 13, 2011.

In India, the day is usually marked by tributes and ceremonies in army stations. There are memorial services in some churches such as St. Mark's Cathedral and St. John's Church in Bangalore. At Kohima and Imphal in the remote hillsides of Northeast India, services of remembrance supported by the Indian Army are observed at Kohima and Imphal War Cemeteries (maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission). The day is also marked at the Delhi War Cemetery. In other places in India, this event is not observed.

Kenya

In Kenya, the Kenya Armed Forces Old Comrades Association (KAFOCA) was established in 1945 to take care of the soldiers from World War I and World War II. The KAFOCA and the Kenyan government recognize Remembrance Day.

New Zealand

New Zealand's national day of remembrance is ANZAC Day, April 25. The reason for New Zealand having their remembrance on ANZAC Day happened in 1921. The paper poppies for Armistice that year arrived by ship too late for November 11, 1921, so poppies were given to citizens on the next commemoration date, which happened to be ANZAC Day. That date stuck as the new Poppy Day in New Zealand. "Poppy Day" usually occurs on the Friday before ANZAC Day.

Saint Lucia

Like Barbados, St. Lucia does not recognize Remembrance Day as a public holiday. Instead, ceremonial events such as parades and other activities are held on Remembrance Sunday.

South Africa

In South Africa, Remembrance Day is not a public holiday. Commemoration ceremonies are usually held on the nearest Sunday, at which the "Last Post" is played by a bugler followed by the observation of a two-minute silence. In addition, the South African Legion of Military Veterans holds a street collection on the nearest Saturday to gather money to help military veterans.

United Kingdom

Westminsterabbeypoppies
Memorials in the Field of Remembrance outside London's Westminster Abbey for Remembrance Day, 2002
Royal British Legion's Paper Poppy - white background
Royal British Legion poppy

Remembrance Day ceremonies

Wreath-laying ceremonies, usually organized by local branches of the Royal British Legion, are observed on Remembrance Day at most war memorials across the UK at 11:00 am on November 11, with two minutes of silence observed. The silence is also broadcast as a special program on BBC with a voice-over usually saying, "This is BBC One. Now on the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month. The traditional two-minute silence for Armistice Day." The program starts with a close-up of the Big Ben clock chiming 11 and then the program shows different parts of the world observing the silence. The program ends with a bugler sounding "The Rouse," and then normal programming is resumed.

Many employers and businesses invite their staff and customers to observe the two minutes of silence at 11:00 am. The beginning and end of the two minutes of silence are often marked in large towns and cities by the firing of a field artillery gun.

Remembrance Sunday

Cmglee Cambridge Trinity College Remembrance Service 2018
Remembrance Service at Trinity College, Cambridge in 2018

In the United Kingdom, the main observance is Remembrance Sunday, held on the Sunday nearest to November 11. There is a National Service of Remembrance in London, as well as other services and ceremonies in the regions. A minute or two minutes of silence is often included in church services.

Northern Ireland

Remembrance Day is officially observed in Northern Ireland in the same way as in the rest of the United Kingdom. However, the Republic of Ireland has its own National Day of Commemoration in July for all Irish people who have died in war.

Similar observances outside the Commonwealth

Denmark

In 2009, the Danish government established Veterans' Day with early events on September 5. On this day, past and present members of the armed forces who have served in war are remembered.

France and Belgium

Bleuet de France circa 1950
Bleuet de France, circa 1950

Remembrance Day (November 11) is a national holiday in France and Belgium. Armistice Day is one of the most important military celebrations in France since it was a major French victory and the French lost many soldiers to get it. In France, World War I was considered the "Great Patriotic War." In France, the blue cornflower (Bleuet de France) is used symbolically rather than the poppy.

Germany

The German national day of mourning is the secular public holiday of Volkstrauertag, which has been observed two Sundays before the first Sunday of Advent since 1952. The anniversary of the Armistice itself is not observed in Germany.

Hong Kong

Remembrance Day in Hong Kong 1
The Hong Kong Police Band at the memorial service by the Cenotaph in Central, Hong Kong

Because Hong Kong left the Commonwealth of Nations in 1997, Remembrance Day has not been a public holiday. However, Remembrance Sunday is still observed there.

Ireland

The Republic of Ireland holds a National Day of Commemoration in July for Irish men and women who have died in war. Remembrance Sunday itself is marked by a ceremony in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

Israel

In Israel there are two ceremonies, the first being in Jerusalem at the British War Cemetery on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday, organized by the British Consul in Jerusalem. The second and larger ceremony is in Ramleh on the Sunday itself, organized by the British embassy in Tel Aviv.

Italy

In Italy, soldiers who died for the nation are remembered on November 4, when the ceasefire that followed the Armistice of Villa Giusti in 1918 began. The Day is known as the Day of National Unity Day of the Armed Forces, Giorno dell'Unità Nazionale Giornata delle Forze Armate in Italian. Since 1977, this day has not been a public holiday; now, many services are held on the first Sunday in November.

Netherlands

In the Netherlands, Remembrance Day is commemorated yearly on May 4. It is not a public holiday. Throughout the country, soldiers and civilians who died in war are remembered. The main ceremonies are at the Waalsdorpervlakte near The Hague, the Grebbeberg near Wageningen, and Dam Square in Amsterdam. Two minutes of silence are observed at 8:00 pm. Remembrance Day is followed by Liberation Day on May 5.

Norway

In Norway, the Norwegian Armed Forces commemorate Veteran's Day. The Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, decided that Veteran's Day would be observed on the same day as Victory in Europe Day, in Norway known as "Frigjøringsdagen," or Liberation Day.

Poland

November 11 is a public holiday in Poland called Independence Day. The end of World War I allowed Polish people to regain the freedom and unity of their country after 123 years of partition. Major events include laying flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by members of the government and highest authorities, other public ceremonies, church services, and school celebrations.

Russia

In Russia, Remembrance Day is celebrated on August 1 since 2012, in memory of the declaration of the war of Russia by the German Empire on the same day in 1914.

Serbia

Remembrance day has been a holiday in Serbia since 2012. Serbia is an Allied force that lost the most people in World War I. To remember their victims, people in Serbia wear Natalie's ramonda as a symbol of remembrance.

United States

Veterans Day is observed in the United States on November 11. It is both a federal holiday and a state holiday in all states. In the United States, it was given its new name in 1954 at the end of the Korean War to honor all veterans, living and dead. Veterans Day is observed with memorial ceremonies, salutes at military cemeteries, and parades.

In the United States, Memorial Day, celebrated on the last Monday of May, is the day to remember fallen soldiers from all wars.

Interesting Facts about Remembrance Day

  • The poppy is used for Remembrance Day as a symbol of the blood spilled in World War I.
  • The poppy tradition began when the noticeable red flower was seen growing over the graves of soldiers.
  • Poppies are worn during a remembrance period that runs from the last Friday in October until November 11. Money raised from the “Poppy Campaign” helps military veterans in need.
  • The bugle is often played at military funerals and on Remembrance Day, to symbolize that soldiers can rest in peace. In war, the bugle was used to tell soldiers it was time to return to their barracks and sleep.
  • Gun salutes are used in some Remembrance Day ceremonies in different countries around the world.
  • A few of the names for World War I are The War to End All Wars, The War of the Nations, The Great War, and World War I.

See also

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