French Language Blog

French Holidays – Armistice Day Posted by on Nov 11, 2008 in Uncategorized

As we arrive at the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, today is Armistice Day in France.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy is hosting an international ceremony at the Fort of Douaumont in Meuse where the battle of Verdun took place, with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, the Australian Governor-General as well as the President of the German Senate and other leaders in attendance.  By inviting not only World War I allies, but also enemies to the ceremony, the French President is breaking with tradition in order to demonstrate that “ninety years after the end of the Great War, European countries are not only at peace with each other, but even better, have built a durable and profound Union together founded on reconciliation and respect for fundamental rights.”  Other solemn services will be taking place today throughout France in Paris as well as the various military cemeteries in northern France. 

Remembrance Day is being marked in Belgium with a reading at St. George’s Memorial Church as well as Saint Martin’s Cathedral in Ypres.  A Poppy Parade, which is inspired by the John McCrae poem written near Ypres In Flanders Fields, is also taking place.  Poppy petals are worn as they are in several other countries, including Canada and Australia, for the same reason.  In the middle of the parade, a stop is made at the Belgian Army Monument for memorial.  Finally, as is tradition, a 45-minute Last Post ceremony including prayers, speeches, hymns, a wreath-laying ceremony and Reveille (a morning bugle or drum call that lets soldiers know it is time to wake up) takes place.  This ceremony as well as memorial concerts take place twice during the day. 

There are also Remembrance Day services in Québec.  The large cemetery of Mount Royal is lined with blue Quebec flags and poppies are placed around the graves.  The wreath-laying ceremony was organized by the nationalist Société St Jean-Baptiste.  A song of peace by sovereigntist singer Raymond Levesque was played instead of the traditional O Canada.  In Montreal, the Royal Montreal Regiment and others participated in ceremonies around the city.

Veterans Day, as it is known in the US, commemorates the sacrifices made by the military and civilians at times of war.  It is held on November 11th as the Germans and the Allies signed an armistice in Compiègne, France to end major World War I hostilities which went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

Go to Le Monde to see a slideshow of Armistice Day pictures from France.

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