Remembrance Day or Armistice Day is a day of commemoration observed in the Commonwealth of Nations and various European countries (including France and Belgium) to commemorate 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. Remembrance Day is specifically dedicated to members of the armed forces who were killed during war.
Common British, Canadian, South African and ANZAC traditions include two minutes' silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (the time that the armistice became effective), and wearing artificial poppies sold to raise funds for veterans' groups (the Earl Haig Fund in Britain or the Royal Canadian Legion in Canada). The poppy emblem was chosen because of the poppies that bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their red colour an appropriate symbol for the bloodshed of trench warfare. Some people choose to wear white poppies, which emphasies a desire for peaceful alternatives to military action.
In the United Kingdom, although two minutes' silence is often observed on 11 November itself, the main observance is on the nearest Sunday, Remembrance Sunday. Ceremonies are held at local communities' War Memorials, usually organized by local branches of the Royal British Legion – an association for ex-serviceman. Typically poppy wreaths are laid. A minute's or two minutes' silence is also frequently incorporated into church services on that day. The main commemoration is held on 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 employees of the federal government. 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 which are federally registered may make the day a full holiday, or instead designate a provincially-recognized holiday on a different day. Thousands of people gather near the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Among the crowd several war veterans, some in wheelchairs, pay their respects to fallen sailors, soldiers, and airmen.
In South Africa, the day is not a public holiday. Commemoration ceremonies are usually held on the following Sunday, at which, as with Australia, 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 11 November, 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 the two-minute silence is observed. In recent decades, however, Remembrance Day has been partly eclipsed by ANZAC Day (25 April) as the national day of war commemoration.
Veterans Day is celebrated in the United States on the same date, but the function of the observance elsewhere is more closely matched in the US by Memorial Day. In the United States and some other allied nations this was formerly known as Armistice Day; in the USA it was given its new name after the end of World War II.
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