How Remembrance Day is celebrated around Europe

Remembrance Day, otherwise known as Armistice day is celebrated every year by a number of different countries. It commemorates the end of the First World War and honours those who died during the war.

Great Britain

The UK celebrates Remembrance Day on November the 11th. During this day, a two-minute silence is held at 11am. This tradition was started when King George V requested a two-minute silence in 1919 at the same time and day the war had ended the previous year. People also continue to carry a red poppy from the 2nd of November until the 11th as a sign of hope and respect. The poppy relates to fields of poppies that grew where many battles were fought, such as in the Somme in France. Now profits bought from red poppies go to the Royal British Legion, a charity created by veterans of WW1.

France

France also celebrates its Remembrance Day on the 11th of November. However, instead of red poppies, they have ‘the bleuet de France’, a blue flower otherwise known as the cornflower: which, like the poppies, continue to grow in the land devastated by warfare. It was given patronage by French President Gaston Doumergue in 1928 which helped increase sales. During Remembrance Day in Paris, there are celebrations such as a military parade around the Arc de Triomphe and a special service at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Belgium

Belgium’s Remembrance Day, also on the 11th of November is recognised as a national holiday. Therefore, most government agencies, banks and shops are closed. Moreover, St. Martin’s Cathedral in Ypres/Ieper has been used to hold concerts for remembrance services since 2004. Other commemorative ceremonies, services, military parades and the sounding of the Last Post also occur during the day.

Germany

On the Sunday, two Sundays before the first Sunday of Advent, which usually is the 16th of November, German national mourning/commemoration day occurs, otherwise known as Volkstrauertag. The President gives a speech which is then followed by the National Anthem and the song “Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden” (I had a comrade). This commemoration day for armed forces was first observed in 1952, and since then, Germany’s Volkstrauertag commemorates victims of armed conflicts both nationally and internationally

Italy

Italy’s Remembrance Day, known as National Unity and the Armed Forces Day, takes place on November 4, to remember the ceasefire agreed with Austria-Hungary on the 3rd of 1918. Italy declared the anniversary a holiday in 1919, making it one of Italy’s oldest national holidays. But in 1977, due to years of protesting against the holiday that is said to glorify militarism, its status as a national holiday was removed. However, there are still celebrations that occur on the 4th such as a military display at Altare Della Patria in Rome’s Piazza Venezia, which the President and Minister of defence attend.

Poland

Remembrance Day for Poland on the 11th of November is very important as it is also when it finally regained independence, having been partitioned by Austria, Germany and Russia for over 100 years. However, Remembrance Day for Poland was not always celebrated on the 4th, when it was under communist rule it occurred on the 22nd of July to honour the PKWN Manifesto that asserted communist authority over Poland.

Serbia

Serbia’s Remembrance Day is a working public holiday celebrated on October the 21st. To commemorate war victims, people wear Natalie’s Ramoda, a purple flower, otherwise known as the phoenix-flower. Serbia had the highest casualty rate in WW1 out of all the Allied force, with around 16%-28% of their population dead.

Although Remembrance Day is not celebrated on the same day or in the same manner by all countries around Europe, it is important that so many countries have a Remembrance Day to commemorate victims of war. Through this, not only to we honour the dead, but we are all reminded of the mass destruction and impact war has.