Have an Awkward Armistice Day
There’s the name, for starters. Is it Armistice Day? Remembrance Day? Veterans’ Day?
The former is the most accurate — we celebrate it on November 11 because that’s when hostilities in WWI officially ceased, “on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. But that makes it all about WWI veterans (and dead) specifically, and once another Great War came along people decided we should broaden the focus a little. (Makes you wonder how the veterans of European wars from the late 1800s felt about the first few Armistice Days, doesn’t it?)
So Remembrance Day in the U.K., mostly, and Veterans’ Day in the U.S., complicated further by the fact that most people in the U.S. aren’t sure what the difference is between Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day. (Answer: Memorial Day is, in theory, specifically dedicated to the dead, and in some parts of the country involves honoring dead family members whether they served in the military or not, while Veteran’s Day is dedicated to both living and dead veterans.)
And then there’s the whole poppy thing. Have you actually read In Flanders Field? It gets a little Night of the Living Dead toward the end:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
But mostly it’s just awkward to wish someone a “Happy Armistice Day” (or “Happy Veterans’ Day,” or whatever). Those are not really happy concepts. I guess the armistice itself was, in that the fighting was finally over and that was certainly something to be happy about, but in these days of somber reflection and ceremony and so forth it’s not exactly a cheering thought.
This year it wasn’t even an extra day off work for most people. Doubly unhappy.
So Armistice Day: awkward, yes?