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Musings about Remembrance Day
Nov 10, 2011

 

A Calgary bar, The Roadhouse, is reaping some pretty negative publicity following its decision to promote the Remembrance Day weekend as a party opportunity.
In a radio commercial, the Roadhouse asked, “What will you remember on November 11? That you were at the Roadhouse the night before and didn’t have to go to work the next day.” 
An accompanying print promotion added, “Sometimes we wish every weekend was a long weekend, unfortunately it just can’t be so. So, when one comes along we want to party it up right.”
Also in hot water are students at New Brunswick Community College, Saint John, who advertised: 
“Remembrance Day Pub Crawl—11—11—11—11.” They plan to visit 11 pubs in 11 hours.
This latter event is somewhat less disrespectful of the day’s meaning since students plan to observe a minute’s silence at the final bar — at 11 a.m., November 11.
Both Roadhouse and students have upset veterans, their families, and members of the public-at-large.
Many Twisty Tongue readers may recall when November 11 wasn’t a “holiday.” People attended school and went to work just as on any other day, the difference being that at 11 a.m. everyone stopped to remember. The Free Press sounded its siren, heard all over the city. Everything then stopped, including traffic. Everyone observed a two-minute silence.
I was once in Eaton’s when 11:00 a.m. was announced over the loudspeaker. Every customer, every salesclerk, every elevator and escalator stopped.
Schools held Remembrance Day programs. Then, after the silence, the learning went on.
I think it was more meaningful to observe November 11 that way than in the way we now do. People are people. Of course, they will treat a day off work as a holiday.
But Remembrance Day isn’t a holiday and we shouldn’t forget that.
Veterans, themselves, collect at Legions following official ceremonies and parades. They do drink there, it’s true. But they also remember. If you dropped into a Legion in the days when Second World War veterans were still plentiful, you’d have heard them talking about “over there,” about those who didn’t come back, about the girls they met and the things they saw. You’d have heard them singing wartime songs.
When I was young, we called November 11 Armistice Day. Not until after the Second World War did people speak of Remembrance Day, although Parliament officially changed the name from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day in 1931. Canadians largely ignored that name change — until the armistice signed in France at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, was clearly negated by another big conflict.
An armistice is a cessation or suspension of hostilities; a truce. The word is French from the New Latin armistitium, from arma (arms) and stitium (stoppage).
Remembrance is defined as 1) the act of remembering; 2) the state of being remembered; 3) something serving to celebrate or honour the memory of a person or event. The word is from the Middle English remembren, from the Old French remembrer, from the Late Latin rememorari (to remember again).