Americans celebrate Veterans Day every year on Nov. 11 to honor those who have served in the armed forces and fought to protect our way of life. Today is filled with commemorative events, parades and, of course, some sweet shopping deals all around the country.
As you probably know, there is historical significance behind why we celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11. The Allied nations and Germany signed an armistice, or a temporary halting of hostilities during World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month on Nov. 11, 1918. President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11, 1919 the first Armistice Day in the U.S., and the name was changed to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954 to honor veterans of all wars.
Clearly, the U.S. is not the only country with armed forces or the desire to celebrate them. Even the origins of Veterans Day involved the largest worldwide conflict anyone had ever seen. What other countries are celebrating their armed forces today, and how are they doing it?
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has some of the more elaborate celebrations to honor those who have fought for their country. From late October up to Armistice Day on Nov. 11, the Royal British Legion distributes 40 million poppies that people wear to commemorate those who have served in the armed forces. The celebrations are split into two days. The first is Remembrance Day, which takes place on the second Sunday of November each year. It is a day to recognize those who have lost their lives protecting the U.K. It's basically the U.K. version of Memorial Day. The U.K. also celebrates Armistice Day on Nov. 11 with a two-minute moment of silence observed at the 11th hour throughout the country.
The rest of the Commonwealth
Accordingly, Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, as it is called in some places, is observed throughout many of the 52 other member countries of the Commonwealth, a political association of mostly former territories of the British Empire. These include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka, just to name a few. Like the U.K., these countries also incorporate the poppy into their celebrations.
France also celebrates Armistice Day on Nov. 11, and this year it's an even more special occasion. President Francois Hollande opened the new international memorial of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette today in Ablain Saint Nazaire northwest of Arras called the "Ring of Remembrance," which is a huge, bronzed stainless steel, elliptical monument that includes the names of the nearly 580,000 men who died in northern France during World War I. President Hollande was joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron to officially open the memorial.
The Belgians also host one of the biggest Armistice Day ceremonies. Every year since 1928, the country has put on the Last Post Ceremony. The Last Post is the name of a bugle call played in the British Army and other armies to mark the end of the day. Now it is used to remember fallen soldiers. The Last Post Ceremony takes place at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, and it also includes a release of red poppies from the roof of Menin Gate.
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