Canadian Holidays: REMEMBRANCE DAY© David Watts 11 July 2003
Our November national holiday is Canadian not in its origin but in its evolution. .
The Americans celebrate Veterans’ Day in November and Memorial Day in May. In Canada we observed November 11 as the day of the Armistice that ended what we then called the Great War.
The Armistice failed. The Great War did not make the world safe for democracy as we had hoped
Twenty years later we found ourselves in a Second World War. At its end November 11 became Remembrance Day, the name we call it now, together with many other Commonwealth countries.
That choice of word is rich with meaning in both our official languages.
In French it’s called “le jour du souvenir.” Souvenir is not just something collected from the past. It means “to come under” like the English “under-stand,” “under-take” and “under-go.”
To souvenir in French means to come under, shoulder, carry the awareness of war and peace and the sacrifices they entailed by the living and the dead.
In 1917 Canadian John MacRae wrote “Take up our quarrel” We recite his words each year, and what we undertake is not the quarrel but an awareness of its cost. That is what souvenir means.
Our English word re-member means to become members once again. Now when we talk about “members” now we mean in a group or organization. The meaning goes deeper than that.
“Member” in English originally meant “part of a body.” To dis-member is “to take a body apart”, to re-member is “to put it back together again.”
So re-membrance is more than recollection or nostalgia. It is a collective statement of “This is my body” emphasizing the continuing body of which we’re all a part.
For many Canadians now November 11 is a chance to renew our hopes for Peace in remembering our peacekeepers, and in reaching out to connect with those with whom we’ve been at odds.
Remembrance Day: a chance to look back on where we’ve been.
to say “Thank you” to those who put their lives on the line.
An affirming of who we are
A moment to reflect on the values we hold
and the country and planet we wish to be.
To come under the influence of those who came before
to be joined with them and with each other in a body of spirit
that continues the lives they laid down:
That is what it means to Remember.