Armistice Day

Here’s another not-baby-oriented idea from this baby blog, a bigger picture notion for when your child is old enough to learn about America’s Veteran’s Day.

In the United States, the holiday began in 1919 as Armistice Day, intended to remember and commemorate the ending of World War I and to thank its veterans. In 1938, it was made a legal holiday: “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

Technically, it starts on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, marking when the cease fire was enacted on the Western Front.

Germany remembers WWI with Volkstrauertag (National Day of Mourning) around Easter time and Australia and New Zealand have Anzac Day in April. Armistice Day is celebrated in November by most of the other allied nations (sometimes called Remembrance Day or Remembrance Sunday in the UK).

In 1953, the US “expanded” the holiday to include all American veterans by renaming the holiday Veteran’s Day. While the intention behind the change was noble, it was anything but an expansion.

A big problem with America that its citizens are disinterested and uninformed about world events while its government is the exact opposite — involved militarily in other countries with more than 700 military bases (many around the globe) and 2.2 million service personnel. In other words, Americans have a responsibility to inform themselves better about the global community and what is done on their behalf and why.

This year, for the first time, Germany is joining France is commemorating Armistice Day. My family will celebrate Armistice Day, a much larger holiday that remembers veterans of all countries, and more so, solemnly celebrates world peace.

I have no problem with Armistice Day expanding to include celebrating the cessation of hostilities for every war, with remembrances varying from country-to-country depending upon how many wars each have waged. In that way, all veterans are remembered and our children are richer for the experience.

Addendum: Per my wife’s question about whether I would include a Doctor Who reference in this post, I have to quash any seriousness I established and devolve into geekdom by linking to the requisite two-part Doctor Who sci-fi episodes: Human Nature and Family of Blood. It’s set in the years before WWI involving the youth who will eventually be fighting the war. And of course, aliens are involved.

In any case, it ends with a partial reading of Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem For the Fallen.

Its third and fourth verses are often quoted as an Ode to Remembrance.

“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”


2 Responses to “Armistice Day”

  1. Bri says:

    In Canada it is called Rememberance day. It is a national holiday and kids in school are taught about what it means. It poses some interesting questions around the dinner table but it is important to talk about the sacrifices made for our freedom and others.

    November 11th, 2009 at 2:27 pm

  2. Tracy says:

    Hey, we celebrate Remembrance Day here in Australia! In our household we had a minute of silence at 11 AM, and attempts (not entirely successful) were made to explain the day to our 3 year old daughter. ANZAC day commemorates the first major military action that troops from the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp participated in, but it is of an all around veterans day as well. :-)

    November 11th, 2009 at 11:12 pm

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