November 11 – one of the important days to honor and remember those who have served and are serving the country. In France, this day is called Armistice Day (still according to the old name). The way the French celebrate Armistice Day is not much different from the way other countries celebrate this holiday. Here’s how Veterans day celebrate in France.
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When is Armistice Day?
How Veterans day celebrate in France, or Armistice Day in France, celebrated on November 11, marks the end of World War I. Originally a day to honor those who served in World War I, the day has since become a way to remember all those who served and died defending France in various wars.
History of Armistice Day
Armistice Day originates from the armistice signed between Germany and its allies on the morning of November 11, 1918, ending World War I. The armistice was signed between Germany and the Allies at Compiègne, France. The signing of the armistice marked the end of hostilities on the Western Front, which came into force at 11 a.m.; “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”
During the 52-month war from 1914-1918, the warring parties mobilized more than 70 million people to wage an all-out war, fiercely fought on land, in the air, and at sea. 70 countries around the world were caught up in the whirlpool of the 1914-1918 war.
According to historical statistics, more than 18 million people died including soldiers and civilians. In France, more than 8 million young people were mobilized to the battlefield. Many brutal battles such as the Battle of Verdun and in the Somme region took place in France, leaving nearly two million dead, wounded, or missing.
After nearly four years, World War I ended with the victory of the Anglo-French – Russian side and its allies, but with terrible and tragic consequences. In addition to the terrible loss of life, cities, villages, roads, bridges, factories… in Europe were all destroyed. The war took place in Europe and about 800 million people were affected.
After World War II, many countries renamed Armistice Day to honor war veterans. The British Commonwealth countries named it Memorial Day, while the US chose Veterans Day.
A law was passed on October 24, 1922, to make November 11 a public holiday in France. This date was chosen because veterans wanted to celebrate the end of war rather than victory. The holiday’s original name was ‘Armistice de la Première Guerre Mondiale’ (Armistice of the First World War), but as in other countries of the world, Armistice Day was later used to commemorate those who fell in the second world war and other conflicts.
Although 11 November is used to reflect the end of the war, it specifically marks the cease-fire on the Western Front as hostilities continued in other areas for a short time, especially throughout the former Russian Empire and some parts of the former Ottoman Empire.
How Veterans day celebrate in France (Armistice Day)
Armistice Day in France is an important and solemn holiday. Like other holidays, most French people have a day off. On this day, a number of special rites, rituals, and symbols honor those who have fallen.
One Minute of Silence
In France, as in many other countries, at exactly 11 a.m. on November 11, the whole country paused for a moment of silence. During this time, people will remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who fought in the French wars and who gave their lives for their country.
Ceremonies across France may also take place at war memorials. These memorials or statues are scattered in towns across the country. Wreaths, flowers, and special wreaths can be left in memory of the deceased.
Many ceremonies and rituals were held on the great battlefields of France. For example, in 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy celebrated International Armistice Day at Fort Douaumont. This is where the famous battle of Verdun took place. Verdun was one of the fiercest battles, lasting ten months. More than 550,000 French soldiers died in that battle.
Each solemn ceremony can be held slightly differently. Soldiers wearing military uniforms can march in parade formations. Only a handful of French World War I veterans are still alive, and since many of these are in their late nineties or older, very few take part. Veterans who have fought in other wars, such as World War II, can also participate.
How Veteran day celebrate in France – Modern Day Remembrances
Today, France is seeking to take the lead in reminding the world that the historical differences between European nations that led to events like World Wars I and II are over and done.
President Sarkozy, in his speech at the meeting in Verdun on Armistice Day 2008, tried to emphasize that 90 days after the great battle, Europe’s enemies have now gathered as friends.
To emphasize his point, he invited not only former Allies, such as Britain represented by Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, but also the President of the German senate. The dignitaries stood shoulder to shoulder, representing the unity of the new European Union.
Since Armistice Day is a national holiday, most people spend it with their families. They may gather for a quiet visit, lunch, or dinner. Usually, the whole day is spent with family and friends so that one can remember the connection with the past.
Many French families remember members who served in the French wars. Photo albums can be carried around, memorabilia shared, or elderly relatives forced to tell stories about their service.
That’s how Veterans day celebrate in France. They mark that day with family, friends, and memories of those who went before and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their country.