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Thursday, November 09, 2006

November 11 

In two days it will be November 11. The significance of this date extends nearly a century:

The Allied powers a signed a cease-fire agreement with Germany at Rethondes, France on November 11, 1918, bringing World War I to a close. Between the wars, November 11 was commemorated as Armistice Day in the United States, Great Britain, and France. After World War II, the holiday was recognized as a day of tribute to veterans of both world wars. Beginning in 1954, the United States designated November 11 as Veterans Day to honor veterans of all U.S. wars.

But it's not called Veterans Day in other countries:

Remembrance Day (Australia, Canada, Colombia, UK and Ireland), also known as Poppy Day (South Africa and Malta), and Armistice Day (UK, New Zealand and many other Commonwealth countries; and the original name of the holiday internationally) is a day to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans and civilians in World War I and other wars. It is observed on November 11 to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918....

Common British, Canadian, South African and ANZAC traditions include two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month because that was the time (in Britain and France) when the armistice became effective. The two minutes recall World War I and World War II. Before 1945 the silence was for one minute, and today some ceremonies still only have one minute of silence despite this.

Memorials outside London's Westminster Abbey for Remembrance Day, 2002In the United Kingdom, although two minutes' silence is observed on November 11 itself, the main observance is on the second Sunday of November, Remembrance Sunday. Ceremonies are held at local communities' War Memorials, usually organized by local branches of the Royal British Legion – an association for ex-servicemen. Typically, poppy wreaths are laid by local organisations including the Royal British Legion, ex-servicemen organisations, cadet forces, the Scouts, Guides, Boys' Brigade, St John Ambulance and the Salvation Army. "The Last Post" is played by a trumpeter or bugler, two minutes' silence is observed and broken by a trumpeter playing "Reveille". A minute's or two minutes' silence is also frequently incorporated into church services on that day. The main commemoration is held in Whitehall in central London, where the Queen, Prime Minister, and other senior political and military figures join with veterans to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph.

In Canada the day is a holiday for federal government employees. However, for private business, provincial governments, and schools, its status varies by province. In Western and Atlantic Canada it is a general holiday. In Ontario and Quebec, it is not a general holiday, although corporations that are federally registered may make the day a full holiday, or instead designate a provincially-recognized holiday on a different day. Schools usually hold assemblies for the first half of the day or on the school day prior with various presentations concerning the remembrance of the war dead. Thousands of people gather near the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Among the crowd, war veterans pay their respects to fallen sailors, soldiers, and airmen. The Act of Remembrance includes the playing of the Last Post, recitation of the Ode of Remembrance, which is a verse of the poem "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon, followed by Reveille.

In South Africa, the day is not a public holiday. Commemoration ceremonies are usually held on the following Sunday, at which, as with Australia and Britain, the "Last Post" is played by a bugler followed by the observation of a two-minute silence. The two biggest commemoration ceremonies to mark the event in South Africa are held in Johannesburg, at the Cenotaph (where it has been held for 84 consecutive years), and at the War Memorial at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

In Australia Remembrance Day is always observed on November 11, although the day is not a public holiday. Services are held at 11am at war memorials in suburbs and towns across the country, at which the "Last Post" is played by a bugler and a one-minute silence is observed. In recent decades, however, Remembrance Day has been partly eclipsed by ANZAC Day (April 25) as the national day of war commemoration.

But for some people, the significance extends well before 1918:

For Anglican and Roman Catholic Christians, there is a coincidental but appropriate overlap of Remembrance Day with the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a saint famous for putting aside his life as a soldier and turning to the peace-filled life of a monk. Statues or images associated with St. Martin are for this reason sometimes used as symbols of Remembrance Day in religious contexts (e.g., the Anglican Cathedral of Montreal).

More on Martin of Tours, the French peacenik:

Joined the Roman imperial army at age 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acted as the emperor's bodyguard, rarely exposed to combat. Cavalry officer, and assigned to garrison duty in Gaul.

Trying to live his faith, he refused to let his servant to wait on him. Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul (modern France), he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his heavy officer's cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. Later he had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak.

Baptised into the Church at age 18. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed, and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms....

On a visit to Lombardy to see his parents, he was robbed in the mountains - but managed to convert one of the thieves. At home he found that his mother had converted, but his father had not. The area was strongly Arian, and openly hostile to Catholics. Martin was badly abused by the heretics, at one point even by the order of the Arian bishop....

Preached and evangelized through the Gallic countryside. Many locals held strongly to the old beliefs, and tried to intimidate Martin by dressing as the old Roman gods, and appearing to him at night; Martin continued to win converts. He destroyed old temples, and built churches on the land....

c.316 at Upper Pannonia (in modern Hungary)

8 November 397 at Candes, Tours, France of natural causes; by his request, he was buried in the Cemetery of the Poor on 11 November 397; his relics rested in the basilica of Tours, a scene of pilgrimages and miracles, until 1562 when the catheral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants; some small fragments on his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860

against impoverishment; against poverty; alcoholism; beggars; Beli Manastir, Croatia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Burgenland; cavalry; Dieburg, Germany; Edingen, Germany; equestrians; Foiano della Chiana, Italy; France; geese; horse men; horses; hotel-keepers; innkeepers; Kortijk-Dutsel, Belgium; diocese of Mainz, Germany; Olpe, Germany; Pietrasanta, Italy; Pontifical Swiss Guards; quartermasters; reformed alcoholics; riders; diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Germany; soldiers; tailors; vintners; Virje, Croatia; wine growers; wine makers; Wissmannsdorf, Germany

But, most importantly...November 11 is my cousin's birthday!

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Have a listen to the Remembrance podcast on iTunes or on the Royal British Legion blog. It's a good way to remember.
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