November 11th is a busy day for holidays. Depending on where in the world you live, it is likely that you observe either Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day on this date. All three holidays have their roots in World War I, but contain some subtle differences. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between them is, we’ve got you covered with a quick rundown of each.
The First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. However, fighting had actually ended a few months earlier, when an agreement was reached between the Allied nations and Germany to temporarily end hostilities. Known as an armistice, this agreement went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
On November 10, 1919, nearly a year after that initial armistice, a celebration was held at Buckingham Palace in London. King George V had hosted a “Banquet in Honour of The President of the French Republic” that evening. The next morning, on November 11th, events were planned for around the palace.
At 11:00am on that day, there was a two-minute moment of silence. The first minute was to show respect for the roughly 20 million people who died in the war. The second minute was dedicated to the living left behind – wives, children, and families of those affected by the war.
Similar ceremonies would develop elsewhere in the world. In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson established November 11th, 1919, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day, proclaiming:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
World War I has been called the War to End All Wars. Unfortunately though, it was not. World War II brought even more bloodshed and violence. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries.
In the Commonwealth of Nations, Armistice Day would eventually evolve into Remembrance Day. While the former was a time to commemorate the ending of World War I and the peace that followed, the latter came to be a time for remembering all members of the armed forces who had died in the line of duty.
One of the most common emblems of Remembrance Day today is the red remembrance poppy. This tradition started shortly after those initial Armistice Day observances, and comes from the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae, a Canadian poet who also served as Lieutenant Colonel of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The bright red color of the poppies became a symbol for the blood spilled in war.
On May 13, 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday in the United States to be celebrated on the 11th of November. It was meant to be a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.
However, like in the Commonwealth of Nations, the United States also was impacted by the outbreak of World War II. The war brought with it the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the United States history. Shortly after, the United States found itself in yet another conflict, the Korean War, which began in 1950.
In 1954, the act which had established Armistice Day as a legal holiday was amended. Armistice was replaced with the word Veterans, and on June 1st of that year, November 11th was declared a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day, a US public holiday that is observed each May. Veterans Day is meant to celebrate the service of all military veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who died in service. The United States also observes Armed Forces Day, which is also in May and honors those currently serving in the military.
Honoring Those Who Have Served
The military men and women who serve their countries across the globe come from all walks of life. They are parents, children, friends, and neighbors. Whether you observe Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day, or some combination of the three, make sure to take some time this November 11th to reflect on the sacrifices made by the brave men and women of the armed forces. It’s just one small way of giving thanks.
And if earning badges is your thing, make sure to earn this special Remembrance Day badge. You can only earn it on November 11th.
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.