Remembrance Day is November 11th
Each year on November 11th Canadians wear poppies and gather at war memorials to remember those who have died serving the country in wars or on peace-keeping missions. At 11:00 a.m. people stop and observe two minutes of silence as a way of honouring their sacrifice.
On Remembrance Day we honour the servicemen and women who fought and died in all wars in which Canada took part, but the importance of November 11th began with the end of World War One. The armistice was signed in 1918 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year.
When World War One began in 1914, Canada was a very young country with a small population. But on the battlefields Canadian soldiers fought bravely, and on April 9, 1917 the Canadian Corps won the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Some people feel that Canada was truly born as an independent nation on that day. Now, if you visit France you can see a gleaming white memorial to the soldiers who fought at Vimy.
My grandfather fought and was wounded at Vimy Ridge, and in 1998 I travelled to the place where he fought. I wasn't surprised to see other Canadians there, but I was deeply moved to see that on November 11th the whole memorial was crowded with people from France who had also come to remember.
Poppies have often been associated with war. Tradition states they grow best in soil that has been turned over, such as the soil above a grave. But, it was a poem by a Canadian army medical officer that helped establish the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance Day. Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields in 1915 after seeing poppies growing beside the grave of a friend. At Remembrance Day ceremonies it is customary for someone to recite this poem.
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.
The practice of selling poppies to raise money for wounded veterans started after World War One and continues to this day.
Remembrance Day ceremonies will take place at several locations across the country this Sunday morning, including Old City Hall and all of the Civic Centres in Toronto. Everyone is allowed to attend. After the ceremony many people will remove the poppy they are wearing and place it at the war memorial to show that they came and paid tribute to the fallen.
To find out more about Remembrance Day, you can borrow these library materials: