Originally known as Armistice Day --- Remembrance Day is a holiday commemorating the armistice that took place on November 11, 1918.
It was the 11th hour, on the 11th day, in the 11th month when The First World War finally came to an end. This war had lasted four years, and claimed the lives of approximately 40 million people. A lot can be learned about our future by considering the patterns of our past, which is why on the 11th of November every year, we take some time out of our busy schedules to reflect on those who went before us and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
From 1921 to 1930, Armistice Day was held on the Monday of the week in which the 11th of November fell. It was in 1931 that a member of parliament introduced a bill to observe Armistice Day strictly on November 11. Passed by the House of Commons, the bill also changed the holiday’s epithet to “Remembrance Day”. The first Remembrance Day was observed on November 11, 1931. Attended by the Prime Minister and administered by the Governor General of Canada, this national ceremony is now held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, and is signified by two minutes of silence, right as the clock strikes 11.
One of the largest battles of the First World War, The Battle of Ypres, took place in the Flanders region of Belgium, leaving devastation in its wake. Where once stood entire townships and natural vegetation, now presented nothing but the spoils of war. Shortly after the bombardments ceased however, poppies began to bloom in countless numbers, adding a bright red hue across a war torn landscape. A doctor by the name of John McCrae noticed this phenomenon, and in spite of the horrors that surrounded him, felt inspired.
John McCrae penned the Poem “In Flanders Fields” on a scrap of paper in May, 1915 following the death of a fellow soldier. Shortly after, McCrae's poem would be published in Britain, going on to become the war’s most popular and most recognized poem throughout the United States and Great Britain. His poem and the poppy became a symbol of growth and rebirth, and to this day is a powerful symbol of remembrance.
In Flanders Fields - John McCrae, 1872 - 1918
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Every year, tens of millions of Canadians wear a Poppy to honour Canada’s Veterans and remember those who sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today --- and every year, The Royal Canadian Legion conducts the Poppy Campaign to raise funds for Veterans and their families. Poppies are distributed freely, and the Legion gratefully accepts donations. Raising an average of $14 million annually, proceeds from the Poppy Campaign are used for grants that help veterans with things like prescription medication, housing accommodation, funding for Veteran Transition Programs, and more.
A period of reflection, the intent behind Remembrance Day is not to glorify war, but to encourage us to reflect upon those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and be mindful of these events when analyzing modern day issues so that we may not repeat the atrocities of the past.
So how can you do your part this Remembrance Day? Wear a poppy, visit a war memorial (make sure you social distance) and read up on your history so you can form your own opinions rather than draw deductions from those of others. Volunteer for local initiatives like the Poppy Campaign so you can do your part to support our veterans, and don't forget to take two minutes of silence on the 11th hour of November 11th to pay tribute to those that came before us.
Happy Remembrance Day everybody. Lest We Forget.